Writing fiction : a guide to narrative craft

by Janet Burroway

Paper Book, 2011




Boston : Longman, c2011.


The most widely used and respected text in its field, Writing Fiction, 7e by novelists Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French guides the novice story writer from first inspiration to final revision by providing practical writing techniques and concrete examples. Written in a tone that is personal and non-prescriptive, the text encourages students to develop proficiency through each step of the writing process, offering an abundance of exercises designed to spur writing and creativity.  The text also integrates diverse contemporary short stories in every chapter in the belief that the reading of inspiring fiction goes hand-in-hand with the writing of fresh and exciting stories.

User reviews

LibraryThing member PeterClack
This is a very good guide to the person thinking about how to write fiction. Follow the steps outlined in the book and you should be able to come up with something presentable.
LibraryThing member UtopianElle
This text can be a bit overwhelming and unapproachable at first. It is rather dense. However, once you get acquainted with the setup it is a great fiction writing guide. The book is filled with different prompts and exercises, which is great. However, to me, the best part of the text is the thoughtful selection of excerpts and writing examples.… (more)
LibraryThing member bexaplex
Writing Fiction is the Platonic form of college writing textbooks: dense, intellectual, and packed with critically-acclaimed writing to illustrate the points that Burroway is making.
LibraryThing member frannyor
Burroway brings together just about anything anybody had ever written about how to write fiction in this compendium as a source book for her students at Florida State. It remains an amazing book.

On my initial encounter with it, I got no farther than her description of Dorothea Brande's mehod of writing every morning before anything else, using stream of consciousness, not self-editing. I was immersed in that practice when i was a newspaper reporter, and it helped my work immensely. I still do it, but more intermittently.… (more)
LibraryThing member aethercowboy
Burroway provides plenty of insight to the aspiring writer. In this book, you'll find all sorts of helpful gems of writing, including examples and exercises. This book is a boon to almost anybody who wants to pick up the pen and write some quality prose (hint from the book: your first draft will and should suck).

Great for any writers wanting to hone their craft.… (more)
LibraryThing member chrisblocker
Clearly this book is written for the beginning English major in undergrad; the author herself even says so. Anyone outside of this demographic probably won't care or will grown bored. I fell into the latter group. While there were many kernals of good advice, it was all information I had heard before. Good reminders, perhaps; beyond that, it offered little more for me.

Overall, this is a good textbook for the undergrad English major. I would suggest being cautious with the author's opinions, however. There are few things I despise more in English craft books than "This is the way to do this and it is the only way" which Burroway alludes to from time to time. Which is ironic considering that the first chapter is entitled "Whatever It Takes" and is the same chapter in which the author tells the reader to "keep a journal," freewrite, and so forth. While these may be good practices to try out, they're not for every writer.
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LibraryThing member bucketofrhymes
As a creative writing textbook, this is one of the best that I've come across. Having said that, it suffers from the same thing that I've come across in various writing books and classes: the idea that genre fiction and kidlit is someow inferior to literary fiction. One genre is not necessarily more sophisticated, more challenging to write, more worthy of our time. They're just different. And just once, I'd like a creative writing book that acknowledges that.… (more)
LibraryThing member Tatoosh
I first read Janet Burroway’s “Writing Fiction” in 1994 but have intended for some time to give it another reading. Finally, a ten-day cruise with plenty of unstructured time provided the perfect opportunity to make good on that intention. The time was well spent.

The subtitle, “ A Guide to Narrative Craft,” clearly identifies the focus and content of this work. In eleven chapters Burroway covers the writing process, the structure and form of stories, critical differences between showing and telling, characterization, atmosphere (harmony and conflict), point of view, comparison (simile and metaphor), theme, and revision. Each chapter begins with an overview of the basic principles Burroway wishes to impart. The chapters conclude with several pages of examples, excerpted from acclaimed novels and short stories, that illustrate the principles introduced in that chapter.

Burroway notes in the beginning that, “ Most of us don’t like to write at all; we like to have written” (p. 1). That observation, when modified, insightfully describes the process of reading Burroway’s book: It’s not enjoyable to read so much as worthwhile to have read. “Writing Fiction” provides a valuable review of critically important aspects of fiction writing for both novice and experienced writers.
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LibraryThing member dasam
I first read Burroway's book in its second edition. Now in its tenth edition, Writing Fiction is even better. I recommend it for the beginning or more mature writer.
LibraryThing member ElizabethAndrew
Rarely have I encountered a writing text so dense in wisdom, so practical, and so philosophically astute. I love how Burroway segues from specific suggestions to illustrative examples from literature to a unified, comprehensive and comprehendible theory of how fiction works.

"Although these are tricks that can be taught and learned, they partake of the essential nature of creativity, in which several elements are joined to produce not merely a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, but a whole that is something altogether other. At the conception of an embryo or a short story, there occurs a conjunction of two unlike things, whether cells or ideas, that have never been joined before. Around this conjunction other cells, other ideas accumulate in a deliberate pattern. That pattern is the unique personality of the creature, and if the pattern does not cohere, it miscarries or is stillborn." 312

Because I almost exclusively teach creative nonfiction, and because I write both fiction and creative nonfiction, I found myself looking through Burroway's observations about fiction to the fundamentals of good story-telling, and through craft to observations about our fundamental nature as created beings and as creators. Just an excellent text!
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LibraryThing member arnzen
A great overview of the fiction writing process, chock full of awesomely teachable example stories. I've been teaching out of this book for years.


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