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.
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.
Great for any writers wanting to hone their craft.
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.
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.
"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!