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Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling

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The first book to provide a concrete framework for writing powerful literary/commercial novels. With this book, literary novelists will: Learn to create compelling plots, while commercial novelists will be able to achieve literary quality writing and win critical respect. Examine examples, techniques, and exercises. Learn practical tools in each chapter that allow novelist The first book to provide a concrete framework for writing powerful literary/commercial novels. With this book, literary novelists will: Learn to create compelling plots, while commercial novelists will be able to achieve literary quality writing and win critical respect. Examine examples, techniques, and exercises. Learn practical tools in each chapter that allow novelists to apply these methods immediately to create fiction that transcends genre, creates realities unique to its authors, conjures characters who feel more "real" than real people, and shows readers the world around them in new ways. What is it that makes twenty-first century fiction different from twentieth-century fiction? It's a real issue, attested by slush piles that are chock full of stories that are weak because they adhere to "rules," feel old-fashioned or in some other way are written the (outdated) way that writers think they should write in order to get published. By explaining the techniques of high-impact (and often best-selling) recent novels, expert author and literary agent Don Maass will push novelists beyond genre boudaries, beyond outdated styles, beyond their safety zone to ways of writing fiction that are personal, unique, contemporary, and excellent in ways that are both literary and commerical. Like Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction, this is intended to be a how-to with extensive "practical tools" and plenty of examples from recent novels. About the Author Donald Maass heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 150 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books of interest to fiction writers, including Writing the Breakout Novel, The Fire in Fiction, and The Breakout Novelist (all from Writer's Digest Books).


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The first book to provide a concrete framework for writing powerful literary/commercial novels. With this book, literary novelists will: Learn to create compelling plots, while commercial novelists will be able to achieve literary quality writing and win critical respect. Examine examples, techniques, and exercises. Learn practical tools in each chapter that allow novelist The first book to provide a concrete framework for writing powerful literary/commercial novels. With this book, literary novelists will: Learn to create compelling plots, while commercial novelists will be able to achieve literary quality writing and win critical respect. Examine examples, techniques, and exercises. Learn practical tools in each chapter that allow novelists to apply these methods immediately to create fiction that transcends genre, creates realities unique to its authors, conjures characters who feel more "real" than real people, and shows readers the world around them in new ways. What is it that makes twenty-first century fiction different from twentieth-century fiction? It's a real issue, attested by slush piles that are chock full of stories that are weak because they adhere to "rules," feel old-fashioned or in some other way are written the (outdated) way that writers think they should write in order to get published. By explaining the techniques of high-impact (and often best-selling) recent novels, expert author and literary agent Don Maass will push novelists beyond genre boudaries, beyond outdated styles, beyond their safety zone to ways of writing fiction that are personal, unique, contemporary, and excellent in ways that are both literary and commerical. Like Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction, this is intended to be a how-to with extensive "practical tools" and plenty of examples from recent novels. About the Author Donald Maass heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 150 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books of interest to fiction writers, including Writing the Breakout Novel, The Fire in Fiction, and The Breakout Novelist (all from Writer's Digest Books).

30 review for Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Peto

    Those suck-ups who rate this book a 5 are obviously hoping to get on Donald Maass’ good side. (He heads a big literary agency in New York.) The book is a 4, and mainly because of the questions at the end of each chapter. The text contains some wisdom, but I don’t honestly believe it will benefit writers who have not already read about the topics in more detail elsewhere. If you have, you’ll enjoy the review and the fresh examples - lots of contemporary ones. Rereading about topics such as charac Those suck-ups who rate this book a 5 are obviously hoping to get on Donald Maass’ good side. (He heads a big literary agency in New York.) The book is a 4, and mainly because of the questions at the end of each chapter. The text contains some wisdom, but I don’t honestly believe it will benefit writers who have not already read about the topics in more detail elsewhere. If you have, you’ll enjoy the review and the fresh examples - lots of contemporary ones. Rereading about topics such as characters may set something at an angle you previously missed, that's all. For example, in chapter 6, The Three Levels of Story, Maass writes about inner and outer conflict, which I’ve read about and thought about just like you, but his focus on inner and outer turning points in each scene did click with me in a new way. Another example of a good from Chapter 6 was what he called the fourth level, which is not plot (beginning, middle, end), scene, or microtension. His concept of the fourth level was useful to me, but based on how little Maass truly elaborates, some enterprising writer of fiction writing books could do him better, much better. I’d try but I know, at this time, I can’t. Maass definitely knows more than I do, duh, but he does not spell it out. Maybe I’ll figure it out as I continue writing. I found lots of things here I had not considered before, like his discussion of “cool vs. warm”, like his vision of 21st Century fiction and novelists, but none of it gets a lot of detailed attention. Donald Maass has a great eye but he is not a writer. He obviously knows more about writing publishable, successful fiction than we do. His examples are wonderful, varied and contemporary. Maybe he’s used to writers who hear his questions and comments and can deliver on that alone. Maass wants results, not hand-holding. Where you can handle it, this book may be a gem. Where you’re not quite there, you may need to turn to other authors who will break it down for you. Ultimately I think Maass is primarily an agent, a producer, a businessman (which is fine), and not a writer, or even a teacher of writing. All writers can benefit and learn from his analysis. I suppose the degree depends on your experience, knowledge, and ability. Each chapter ends with questions. I think it may be best to read this book when you have a draft to contemplate as you read, because the questions will spur on your thinking if they are relevant to what you’re working on. Some questions may strike a chord another day, with another novel draft, or not at all, never. Some questions even struck me as lame, redundant, or foolish. But there were enough good questions that applied to various masterpieces on my hard drive that you will some day treasure, so I will go back to this book again. And again. But without a specific draft to contemplate, I think the questions’ value could easily be underestimated or even completely missed. So four stars. And to all those reviewers who gave it five stars? Come on, Donald Maass is not going to accept your trash just because you kissed his ass on Goodreads. And if he passes on my exceptional final copies because of this 4 star review, then, then, phooey.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brent Weeks

    Don's my agent. I'm a New York Times best selling novelist already. This book is making my next book better. Lots better. This isn't a How-To-Write-a-Best-Seller paint-by-numbers. This is a book that asks YOU questions that make YOU dig deep to write the best book you can, if you're willing to do the work. Don's my agent. I'm a New York Times best selling novelist already. This book is making my next book better. Lots better. This isn't a How-To-Write-a-Best-Seller paint-by-numbers. This is a book that asks YOU questions that make YOU dig deep to write the best book you can, if you're willing to do the work.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Dees

    I would rank this book up with STORY by Robert McKee as one of the most intelligent books ever written about writing fiction. And frankly, this book is more accessible than McKee's textbook. I've always loved Maass's writing how-to materials, and this was no disappointment. However, I have published 45 novels and taught novel writing for years, and this book challenged even me to absorb the full message within it. It is so dense-packed with ideas and expressed so deeply that I literally had to re I would rank this book up with STORY by Robert McKee as one of the most intelligent books ever written about writing fiction. And frankly, this book is more accessible than McKee's textbook. I've always loved Maass's writing how-to materials, and this was no disappointment. However, I have published 45 novels and taught novel writing for years, and this book challenged even me to absorb the full message within it. It is so dense-packed with ideas and expressed so deeply that I literally had to read this book one sentence at a time, stopping to re-read each sentence, in places. But it's THAT brilliant. It was worth it. I hate to say it's not a book for a beginning writer because I suspect any writer will find many pearls of wisdom in this book. But to really understand what Maass is getting at will take a fair bit of concentration, thought, patience, and deep examination of your writing. This is not a book for the dash-off-cheap-fiction-fast writer. Mr. Maass is clearly a master of understanding fiction like few other people I've ever had the pleasure of reading or listening to. And in this book, he's kind enough to share his most intellectual take on fiction writing, no holds barred. He doesn't hold back on the complexity or profundity of his ideas, and for that, I am extremely grateful. It's rare for me, at this level of my writing career to run into someone who can blow my mind and force me to fundamentally re-examine everything I thought I knew about writing. But this book did both. In spades.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Israel

    This was amazing! If you write books or are thinking about it, definitely try this out. Maass covers every possibly element of story you could think of and warps everything you think you know.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris Blake

    One of my favorite books on the craft of fiction is literary agent Donald Maass’s classic, “Writing the Breakout Novel.” Maass followed that up with “The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great.” His latest work, “Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling,” focuses on what it takes to write high-impact fiction in today’s genre-driven age. Maass decided to write the book after he noticed commercial, genre fiction dominated T One of my favorite books on the craft of fiction is literary agent Donald Maass’s classic, “Writing the Breakout Novel.” Maass followed that up with “The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great.” His latest work, “Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling,” focuses on what it takes to write high-impact fiction in today’s genre-driven age. Maass decided to write the book after he noticed commercial, genre fiction dominated The New York Times’ best-seller list for hardcovers (as expected), but the trade paperback list featured literary fiction. His conclusion was that a new kind of fiction was emerging— and that the best 21st Century fiction combined proven commercial story-telling techniques with high impact literary writing that exhibited powerful themes and emotions. In an interview on the popular blog, Writer Unboxed, Maass discussed what the book is about. “It’s about the death of genre, or more accurately the liberation from genre boxes—including the “literary” box. It’s about creating fiction that’s powerful, free and uniquely your own. It’s about how we change the world,” Maass said. http://writerunboxed.com/2012/10/03/t... One of the most lessons Maass imparts to writers is the need to dig deep into their own emotions to create high-impact characters and stories. “The characters who resonate most widely today don’t merely reflect our times, they reflect ourselves. That’s true whether we’re talking about genre fare, historicals, satire, or serious literary stuff,” he writes. “Revealing human truths means transcending tropes, peering into the past with fresh eyes, unearthing all that is hidden, and moving beyond what is easy and comfortable to write what is hard and even painful to face. “Get out of the past. Get over trends. To write high-impact 21st century fiction, you must start by becoming highly personal. Find your voice, yes, but more than that, challenge yourself to be unafraid, independent, open, aware, and true to your own heart. You must become your most authentic self.” Maass urges writers to consider carefully their characters’ inner and outer journeys. These journeys are different, but inter-connected. Each chapter ends with a series of questions and advice specific to character and story. Action and tension are important to sustain the reader’s interest, but Maass urges writers to consider impact. He writes, “Clever twists and turns are only momentarily attention-grabbing. Relentless forward-driving action, high tension, and cliffhangers do serve to keep readers’ eyeballs on the page but don’t necessarily engage their hearts. By the same token, a dutifully rendered reality (reviewers call such writing “closely observed”) may cause readers to catch their breath once in a while but the effect doesn’t last long. Not enough is happening, and when it does it feels underwhelming. How then can commercial novelists construct plots that have true power? How can literary writers conjure events that give their work long-lasting effect? “The answer in all cases is to create events of enormous impact. If an event is external, excavate its inner meaning. If a moment is internal, push it out the door and make it do something large, real, permanent, and hard to miss. Whatever your assignment, you won’t find it easy. It’s not natural to you, since your tendency is to hold back.” If you are a novice writer, I recommend first reading, “Writing the Breakout Novel” before tackling this book. If you are an experienced writer, I highly recommend this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    How I Came To Read This Book: I was researching some good, more recent writing tomes and this one is pretty high-ranked on Goodreads, so I gave it a whirl. The Plot: Essentially Donald Maass is deconstructing what makes runaway bestsellers in today's literary world what they are. He notes early on that many of today's top books defy genre but still have commonalities, namely by tapping into the toolbox of high impact storytelling techniques. Each of those general techniques (and sub-activities) How I Came To Read This Book: I was researching some good, more recent writing tomes and this one is pretty high-ranked on Goodreads, so I gave it a whirl. The Plot: Essentially Donald Maass is deconstructing what makes runaway bestsellers in today's literary world what they are. He notes early on that many of today's top books defy genre but still have commonalities, namely by tapping into the toolbox of high impact storytelling techniques. Each of those general techniques (and sub-activities) are expounded upon with semi-relevant examples (seriously, sometimes I didn't fully see the connection)all written since 2001. At the conclusion of each chapter he gives you about 30-50 different activities / questions / ideas to integrate into your own story. The idea isn't to use EVERY last technique (or your book would be a hot hella mess) but to really challenge your story to come out of the expected. The Good & The Bad: I guess the most important thing to note about this book is that it's not for someone that's trying to learn how to write a novel. The 'advice' given in each chapter feels kind of fluffy and far-ranging; compared to Story Engineering it was very, very unfocused. Really, this book is for someone that is partway through a manuscript or really, done or close to done a manuscript, but wants to polish it up before sending it off to editors or agents. If you are in that state or you are approaching that state, I think you'll appreciate this book that much more - even if I felt like some of the advice / activities were a little extreme. On the plus side, there were some genuine nuggets of clarity that make this book worth a first and a second look. Like the other writing tomes I've been perusing lately, I can see myself keeping this on my desk and using it for inspiration (or for 'checking' my work). I think I need to go through the body copy again (not just the helpful and insightful 'techniques' checklists) and highlight the parts that really resonated with me. Ironically enough, Maass talks about micro-tension and hooking the reader from sentence to sentence so as not to skim a passage. This book, unfortunately, is stuffed with a lot of skimmable content. It's also worth nothing that although it's awesome his examples are all quite recent (and I've read about half of them), if you are intrigued by a novel's premise when he first introduces it, you may want to stop reading as he spoils a LOT of bloody books. But you know, the books he picked are pretty smart throughout - ones that have really entered the zeitgeist to varying degrees. And kudos for mentioning quite a few YA bestsellers, including Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, Before I Fall, among others (including Harry Potter). Again, I don't think this is a book you'll take much away from unless you have a copy on your desk and you're looking to really strengthen your manuscript. Beginner, aspiring writers, seriously look elsewhere. Budding authors with a solid story under their belt - be prepared to have your 'perfect' story shook up a bit. The Bottom Line: Useful for a certain type of writer at a certain stage in the writing game. Suffers a bit from overly fluffy 'advice' but grounds itself in real, extreme, exciting activities and ideas. Anything Memorable?: Fun fact, I tried to start this book in December when I was in the throes of the flu. My brain capsized as I tried to read it so I postponed till the new year. I think it was for the best as reading this as a follow-up to Story Engineering makes sense. 60-Book Challenge?: Book #9(!) in 2014.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vaughn Roycroft

    The first time I read this book I skimmed over the questions at the end of each segment (they really require deep thought, and the time and space for it), and I still found it quite useful in wrapping my head around where I wanted my work to go. I knew I'd have to revisit it before I went back to the revision drawing board, and this time I focused on the questions. I just finished, and it has catapulted my outlook on my writing life and the work itself into a whole new light (and I've been at th The first time I read this book I skimmed over the questions at the end of each segment (they really require deep thought, and the time and space for it), and I still found it quite useful in wrapping my head around where I wanted my work to go. I knew I'd have to revisit it before I went back to the revision drawing board, and this time I focused on the questions. I just finished, and it has catapulted my outlook on my writing life and the work itself into a whole new light (and I've been at this for many years). I have it on my Kindle, but I just ordered a bound copy, for easy flipping during revsion sessions. If you are a writer looking to up your game, buy this book!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Liz Fenwick

    A thought provoking look at writing fiction. It was the right book for me to be reading now. As with all of Maass's book there is insight and then practical exercise to push your writing further. It's a book I will return to again and again. A thought provoking look at writing fiction. It was the right book for me to be reading now. As with all of Maass's book there is insight and then practical exercise to push your writing further. It's a book I will return to again and again.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jodi McIsaac

    I always find Donald Maass' books on writing enormously helpful, and this book was no exception. Although some of the content seemed to be similar to his book The Fire in Fiction, the sections on deepening the emotional intensity were excellent (and much needed at this stage in my current work-in-progress!). I enjoy the exercises/questions he gives at the end of each chapter--I don't sit down and implement them all, but they are certainly good food for thought, especially if you have a scene tha I always find Donald Maass' books on writing enormously helpful, and this book was no exception. Although some of the content seemed to be similar to his book The Fire in Fiction, the sections on deepening the emotional intensity were excellent (and much needed at this stage in my current work-in-progress!). I enjoy the exercises/questions he gives at the end of each chapter--I don't sit down and implement them all, but they are certainly good food for thought, especially if you have a scene that just isn't working but you're not sure why. I'd recommend this book to any writer.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Maass, as always, has some great advice here for livening up your fiction if your draft is feeling stale. Much of it sounded similar to what he offered in The Fire in Fiction and Writing the Breakout Novel, though the spin here is that the modern audience (and agent) doesn't have the time for your boring-assed fiction. Do EVERYTHING YOU CAN to make sure your characters are memorable, your plots well-paced, and your endings so astounding their heads will explode. It's a tall order. I came away fee Maass, as always, has some great advice here for livening up your fiction if your draft is feeling stale. Much of it sounded similar to what he offered in The Fire in Fiction and Writing the Breakout Novel, though the spin here is that the modern audience (and agent) doesn't have the time for your boring-assed fiction. Do EVERYTHING YOU CAN to make sure your characters are memorable, your plots well-paced, and your endings so astounding their heads will explode. It's a tall order. I came away feeling rather overloaded with suggestions, too. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I was somewhat reminded of my skating coach back in the day helping me learn a jump or a spin. My coach could show me examples of the maneuver being done well and he could offer a lot of suggestions for different ways to hold my shoulders, position my feet, or stretch my body. Not all of them were actually useful though, because it was impossible for him to predict the ripple effects of a single change. Without even considering that, he'd just throw a bunch of advice at me to see what worked. Some of it resulted in some rather exaggerated (and incorrect) results, which were made even worse when he made five suggestions at once. Same for Maass's advice, particularly in the battery of lists at the end of each chapter. "Think of something your character would never say. Make them say it." "What's the most improbable thing your character would do at the climactic moment of the book? Make them do it." "What's an ironclad rule of your genre? Break it." You can't do ALL of these things, or else you're going to end up with a manuscript as spastic as my first attempts at double axels. That's my sense anyway. If you're in the mood to wade through it all, however, there are some good ideas here for experimenting with your fiction. The lists are themed, I know, but they end up making the book as a whole feel less cohesive than the others I mentioned. I don't think Writing 21st Century Fiction is bad, but I would recommend The Fire in Fiction instead.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ann Rawson

    It starts well, and some of the chapters make a lot of sense. Especially when he is talking about genre, and the need to break some of the rules, and stressing authenticity. But then the whole thing is let down by some of the exercises. "What's a foundational attribute of your protagonist? Create an odd tic or habit that implies the opposite. Add six times. Voila, a quirk!" That seems to me to be pretty much the opposite of seeking emotional authenticity, and we are back into writing by numbers t It starts well, and some of the chapters make a lot of sense. Especially when he is talking about genre, and the need to break some of the rules, and stressing authenticity. But then the whole thing is let down by some of the exercises. "What's a foundational attribute of your protagonist? Create an odd tic or habit that implies the opposite. Add six times. Voila, a quirk!" That seems to me to be pretty much the opposite of seeking emotional authenticity, and we are back into writing by numbers territory. I am only part way through, and may never actually finish reading this one. It is so frustrating....

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shaun Ryan

    Maass has done it again. Hands-down the best book on writing I've read. Update: Upon second reading, yup, still the best book on writing novels I've read. Maass has done it again. Hands-down the best book on writing I've read. Update: Upon second reading, yup, still the best book on writing novels I've read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Crofflard

    Let's face it there a lot of books about writing and most say the same thing. What was refreshing about this book seemed to me that it was more advanced than most and took off where most stopped. What was most interesting for me was the concept that to be engaging the writing must be deeply personal. What I found most interesting about his writing is that it did that. I'm not sure why I didn't imagine that to become a true literary artist the process should be any different from that of other for Let's face it there a lot of books about writing and most say the same thing. What was refreshing about this book seemed to me that it was more advanced than most and took off where most stopped. What was most interesting for me was the concept that to be engaging the writing must be deeply personal. What I found most interesting about his writing is that it did that. I'm not sure why I didn't imagine that to become a true literary artist the process should be any different from that of other forms of art where the process of greatness is the one of ridding inhibitions, to stand naked, alone and vulnerability. I don't know why it had never occurred to me before, but I think because Authors create magic - ie visions in the air out of nothing, that somehow, the deeply personal was only for those writing memoirs, high-concept literary art. I have not read Douglas Maass's work before but the best compliment I can offer is that it resonated with me, engaged me and rang true. Now, if I can only do that in my writing.....where were those exercises again?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Petry

    Right up there with Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print as the best and most useful craft books I've ever read. Anyone interested in writing literary genre fiction, genre fiction, literary fiction or whatever you want to label what you write should read this book. Each chapter ends with sections of review and checklists that are so helpful I know I will be coming back to this book many times. Highly Right up there with Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print as the best and most useful craft books I've ever read. Anyone interested in writing literary genre fiction, genre fiction, literary fiction or whatever you want to label what you write should read this book. Each chapter ends with sections of review and checklists that are so helpful I know I will be coming back to this book many times. Highly recommenced.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dave Morris

    "Common and obvious symbols are lame: dove, eagle, rose, sunrise, winter, lightning. Others are so obtuse that they are eternal fodder for term papers: albatross, white whale, the Valley of Ashes." If you don't see anything wrong with that statement and if you prefer, say, the brash oomph of the Breakfast at Tiffany's movie to the slippery nuance and ambiguities of the novel, then this is the book for you. "Common and obvious symbols are lame: dove, eagle, rose, sunrise, winter, lightning. Others are so obtuse that they are eternal fodder for term papers: albatross, white whale, the Valley of Ashes." If you don't see anything wrong with that statement and if you prefer, say, the brash oomph of the Breakfast at Tiffany's movie to the slippery nuance and ambiguities of the novel, then this is the book for you.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    Absolutely great read. Very inspiring. I am ready to apply all that he says to my WIP. He really challenges us writers to go way beyond our comfort levels...and I agree that it probably is necessary. A must read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Richard Thomas

    One of the best books on writing I've read in years. Pick it up. NOW. One of the best books on writing I've read in years. Pick it up. NOW.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Johannus Steger

    I can't decide which Maass book I prefer... Oh wait, yes I can. Emotional Craft of Fiction. I liked this book - hence 4 stars, and I will likely read it again, as I do with all my craft books. Matt Bird's Secrets of Story was more interesting and better developed, in my opinion. Maass hits some high notes in this, but never goes into enough detail. I can't decide which Maass book I prefer... Oh wait, yes I can. Emotional Craft of Fiction. I liked this book - hence 4 stars, and I will likely read it again, as I do with all my craft books. Matt Bird's Secrets of Story was more interesting and better developed, in my opinion. Maass hits some high notes in this, but never goes into enough detail.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Becky Avella

    I love this book. I love this author. Every page is filled with underlines and notes scribbled in the margins. No other teacher of writing craft gets right to the heart of who I long to be as Don Maass does. I fully expect the cover will eventually fall off of this book because it will be re-read so much.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Bird

    This one took me a good year to read, because you need to have a specific project on the go, and time to work with the questions if you want to get the most out of this book. It will be a book to return to with every project, once the 'crappy first draft' is done, and one is ready to edit into brilliance. This one took me a good year to read, because you need to have a specific project on the go, and time to work with the questions if you want to get the most out of this book. It will be a book to return to with every project, once the 'crappy first draft' is done, and one is ready to edit into brilliance.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heather Myers

    Excellent, as usual Maas has always been excellent at writing books on how to write, but I especially liked his chapters on process in this book - what defines success? What type of writer are you? Definitely recommend. Thank you for sharing!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Frank Edwards

    At a recent International Thriller Writers conference I was lucky enough to squeeze myself into a workshop/lecture conducted by Donald Maass, founder of the prestigious Donald Maass Literary Agency, who is a fiction writer himself and one of the most sought after writing teachers in the country. He's someone who has read thousands of great, bad and indifferent works of fiction and has a lot to say. It was an extraordinary learning experience. I quickly found out why his name evokes awe in certai At a recent International Thriller Writers conference I was lucky enough to squeeze myself into a workshop/lecture conducted by Donald Maass, founder of the prestigious Donald Maass Literary Agency, who is a fiction writer himself and one of the most sought after writing teachers in the country. He's someone who has read thousands of great, bad and indifferent works of fiction and has a lot to say. It was an extraordinary learning experience. I quickly found out why his name evokes awe in certain writing circles. Maass's teaching style involves the posing of questions only someone who loves storytelling and knows the art and craft of writing inside out could ask and that force you to dig deeper in search of ways to make your prose leap to life. He also comes across as a modest guy who really enjoys his work. I am happy to say that his latest book on the craft of writing fiction, Writing 21st Century Fiction, captures the man and his message extremely well. Hands down it's one of the best fiction craft tutorials I've read. A raw beginner might find it overwhelming, but for any writer who's slogged through the creation of novels, published or unpublished, this is a gem of wisdom and inspiration from an industry insider and gifted communicator. He begins by pulling down the barrier between literary and genre fiction, pointing out that "high impact" fiction should be the touchstone -- writing that is personal, meaningful and tension-filled. Maass takes us through the usual subjects of a craft manual--plotting, characters, conflict generation--with each chapter enlightened by cogent and entertaining examples and capped off by a series of questions that generate exercises which, trust me, can be immediately applied to your stories in progress. I'm currently working on two novels, one in final revision and the other early in a first draft. Both stories are now stronger thanks to Maass's enthusiasm, brilliant insights and his thought-provoking questions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Denna Davis

    I grabbed this book because it was recommended reading for the upcoming workshop I'll be attending with the author, Donald Maass, as its host (Break Out Novel Initiative-BONI). After reading Writing the Breakout Novel last year, nearly a year ago actually, I find that Don still has the ability to shake my resolve as an author. This is not your average advice. This is a gut-check that makes you see yourself: pimples, laziness, clichés and all. Thankfully, I know that I'm in this writing business f I grabbed this book because it was recommended reading for the upcoming workshop I'll be attending with the author, Donald Maass, as its host (Break Out Novel Initiative-BONI). After reading Writing the Breakout Novel last year, nearly a year ago actually, I find that Don still has the ability to shake my resolve as an author. This is not your average advice. This is a gut-check that makes you see yourself: pimples, laziness, clichés and all. Thankfully, I know that I'm in this writing business for the long-hall and the, seemingly, right reasons: passion vs. royalties, staying power vs. one-hit-wonderer. However, this book made me realize how deep I'd have to dig to take a manuscript I thought was FINALLY ready and attack it MORE; bleed it for every drop of micro-tension and high-impact appeal I can foster. Not just for shock-and-awe, but because to be uniquely naked in on the pages brings a connection to reader that lasts longer than the best fireworks display you can recall! Now, I know what you're thinking, "This is a paint-by-numbers manual and I like to let the characters speak to me." I've said similar words, but that's not what Don offers. You can truly see, by the bestsellers he chooses to include excerpts from in both books I've read, that he is not only a lover of the written word, but an activist in preserving the sacred foundation its built on. I applaud him for trying to awaken authors' eyes to the truths that are hard to swallow, but it doesn't make taking my medicine any sweeter! There's work to be done, and I'm committed to it. Are you? Take the challenge...read the book...and trade those expensive shoes for a pair of practical, ugly galoshes, because you're going deep and taking on a tsunami of emotional challenges! DMD

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rod Raglin

    Go big or go home This latest offering from non-fiction author and literary agent/agency, Donald Maass, basically talks about the melding of literary and genre writing, or beautifully written, character driven novels with page-turning, plot driven novels, to create what he calls literary/commercial fiction. Maas liberally quotes (about a quarter of the book) from his favorite examples. Another big chunk of pages are taken up by exercises which I found interesting to read, but tedious to undertak Go big or go home This latest offering from non-fiction author and literary agent/agency, Donald Maass, basically talks about the melding of literary and genre writing, or beautifully written, character driven novels with page-turning, plot driven novels, to create what he calls literary/commercial fiction. Maas liberally quotes (about a quarter of the book) from his favorite examples. Another big chunk of pages are taken up by exercises which I found interesting to read, but tedious to undertake. Other chapters include his thoughts on creating: inner journey, outer journey, standout characters, three levels of story, beautifully written, and elements of awe. This is not a book for beginners who need the basics like goal, motivation and conflict. Maas assumes you've written a novel, had limited success and want more. A few good ideas here but the premise is 'go big or go home'. Write big stories about larger than life characters in life altering situations. Oh, really?  

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    For me, this book is worth it for the thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter. Dozens and dozens of questions that help writers dissect their scenes and characters to deepen, intensify, and add complexity. Practical applications of how to add tension and micro tension are invaluable if you're looking to write and sell a commercial novel. I've also heard him teach a workshop based on this book, and he goes into many of these questions and prompts in detail. As for the content of the For me, this book is worth it for the thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter. Dozens and dozens of questions that help writers dissect their scenes and characters to deepen, intensify, and add complexity. Practical applications of how to add tension and micro tension are invaluable if you're looking to write and sell a commercial novel. I've also heard him teach a workshop based on this book, and he goes into many of these questions and prompts in detail. As for the content of the rest of the book, there is some repetition from his other popular books, though more of reframing in new context with more updated examples (which I find most helpful). There are basics that he skims over, so I would suggest this book for writers who have a working or completed draft, and who've already read books like James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure or Stephen Kings On Writing and other foundational books that cover basics.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Staticblaq

    Sometimes one more book can be one book to many. In its favour, in a niche that is often populated my many cookie-cutter help guides, this book does cover new and different territory. Much of what is presented is worth consideration and may prove enlightening and help aspiring writers push their work to a better level. After Larry Brooks book, I was inspired, clear of mind and purpose. However, after this book, my mind is cluttered and confidence is shot. While Donald Maas raises some interesting p Sometimes one more book can be one book to many. In its favour, in a niche that is often populated my many cookie-cutter help guides, this book does cover new and different territory. Much of what is presented is worth consideration and may prove enlightening and help aspiring writers push their work to a better level. After Larry Brooks book, I was inspired, clear of mind and purpose. However, after this book, my mind is cluttered and confidence is shot. While Donald Maas raises some interesting points, I felt overall he presents the case for a story, so perfect as to be completely unattainable. Thus I am torn on this work. Do I feel it helped or hindered? I don't know. But it is solidly written, presented with little fuss, uses many examples which should be familiar to modern readers and provides a different view from other books in this genre.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sydney Avey

    Mr. Maass had me from chapter one when he suggested that writers tear down the wall between genre and literary fiction. Great stories told with beautiful writing is how he puts it. That is what I love to read and what I aim for in my writing. I wanted to cry and kiss him by the time I finished Chapter One. (Would this be characterized as warm writing Mr. Maass?) The writing prompts are a little overwhelming, like a ten pound box of chocolates, Used judiciously they can't help but improve your wri Mr. Maass had me from chapter one when he suggested that writers tear down the wall between genre and literary fiction. Great stories told with beautiful writing is how he puts it. That is what I love to read and what I aim for in my writing. I wanted to cry and kiss him by the time I finished Chapter One. (Would this be characterized as warm writing Mr. Maass?) The writing prompts are a little overwhelming, like a ten pound box of chocolates, Used judiciously they can't help but improve your writing. Just don't try them all at once. It will give you a stomach ache. I'm hoping everyone in the publishing industry will take this to heart and that the 21st Century will produce a healthy crop of classics.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Menglong Youk

    This book was recommended to me by a booktuber when she talked about writing craft. I'm glad I picked this one up and enthusiastically read it because, personally, it's by far my top favorite book about writing craft. It, in my opinion, is a book that every new thriller-or-mystery writer should read at least once. I love how the writer describes the progression and includes useful steps of writing fiction. What's more, the summery at the end of each chapter is exceptional which makes readers fin This book was recommended to me by a booktuber when she talked about writing craft. I'm glad I picked this one up and enthusiastically read it because, personally, it's by far my top favorite book about writing craft. It, in my opinion, is a book that every new thriller-or-mystery writer should read at least once. I love how the writer describes the progression and includes useful steps of writing fiction. What's more, the summery at the end of each chapter is exceptional which makes readers find important points easily.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tonia Harris

    This book ranks high on the list of craft books I recommend to writers, either new to the craft or with years of storytelling under their belt. Maass, a respected literary agent, doesn't talk down to writers, or offer a "winning" formula. Instead, he breaks down key concepts such as micro tension and emotional layering. Like any great teachers, he doesn't give you the answers, but leads the way to asking the right questions of your characters and their stories. This book ranks high on the list of craft books I recommend to writers, either new to the craft or with years of storytelling under their belt. Maass, a respected literary agent, doesn't talk down to writers, or offer a "winning" formula. Instead, he breaks down key concepts such as micro tension and emotional layering. Like any great teachers, he doesn't give you the answers, but leads the way to asking the right questions of your characters and their stories.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stina Lindenblatt

    This is easily the best Donald Maass book that he's written. If you're looking for easy, then don't bother with this book. Donald loves to challenge writers to become great writers, and this book is no exception. If you apply his techniques to your writing, you will be sweating (and cursing). It's that hard--but worth it. This is easily the best Donald Maass book that he's written. If you're looking for easy, then don't bother with this book. Donald loves to challenge writers to become great writers, and this book is no exception. If you apply his techniques to your writing, you will be sweating (and cursing). It's that hard--but worth it.

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