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The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great

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Discover the Difference Between a So-So Manuscript and a Novel Readers Can't Forget We've all read them: novels by our favorite authors that disappoint. Uninspired and lifeless, we wonder what happened. Was the author in a hurry? Did she have a bad year? Has he lost interest altogether? Something similar is true of a great many unpublished manuscripts. They are okay stories Discover the Difference Between a So-So Manuscript and a Novel Readers Can't Forget We've all read them: novels by our favorite authors that disappoint. Uninspired and lifeless, we wonder what happened. Was the author in a hurry? Did she have a bad year? Has he lost interest altogether? Something similar is true of a great many unpublished manuscripts. They are okay stories that never take flight. They don't grip the imagination, let alone the heart. They merit only a shrug and a polite dismissal by agents and editors. It doesn't have to be that way. In The Fire in Fiction, successful literary agent and author Donald Maass shows you not only how to infuse your story with deep conviction and fiery passion, but how to do it over and over again. The book features: Techniques for capturing a special time and place, creating characters whose lives matter, nailing multiple-impact plot turns, making the supernatural real, infusing issues into fiction, and more. Story-enriching exercises at the end of every chapter to show you how to apply the practical tools just covered to your own work. Rich examples drawn from contemporary novels as diverse as The Lake House, Water for Elephants, and Jennifer Government to illustrate how various techniques work in actual stories. Plus, Maass introduces an original technique that any novelist can use any time, in any scene, in any novel, even on the most uninspired day...to take the most powerful experiences from your personal life and turn those experiences directly into powerful fiction. Tap into The Fire in Fiction, and supercharge your story with originality and spark!


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Discover the Difference Between a So-So Manuscript and a Novel Readers Can't Forget We've all read them: novels by our favorite authors that disappoint. Uninspired and lifeless, we wonder what happened. Was the author in a hurry? Did she have a bad year? Has he lost interest altogether? Something similar is true of a great many unpublished manuscripts. They are okay stories Discover the Difference Between a So-So Manuscript and a Novel Readers Can't Forget We've all read them: novels by our favorite authors that disappoint. Uninspired and lifeless, we wonder what happened. Was the author in a hurry? Did she have a bad year? Has he lost interest altogether? Something similar is true of a great many unpublished manuscripts. They are okay stories that never take flight. They don't grip the imagination, let alone the heart. They merit only a shrug and a polite dismissal by agents and editors. It doesn't have to be that way. In The Fire in Fiction, successful literary agent and author Donald Maass shows you not only how to infuse your story with deep conviction and fiery passion, but how to do it over and over again. The book features: Techniques for capturing a special time and place, creating characters whose lives matter, nailing multiple-impact plot turns, making the supernatural real, infusing issues into fiction, and more. Story-enriching exercises at the end of every chapter to show you how to apply the practical tools just covered to your own work. Rich examples drawn from contemporary novels as diverse as The Lake House, Water for Elephants, and Jennifer Government to illustrate how various techniques work in actual stories. Plus, Maass introduces an original technique that any novelist can use any time, in any scene, in any novel, even on the most uninspired day...to take the most powerful experiences from your personal life and turn those experiences directly into powerful fiction. Tap into The Fire in Fiction, and supercharge your story with originality and spark!

30 review for The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great

  1. 4 out of 5

    V.

    Most of the information here is the standard stuff you would find in any good how-to book on writing. But there are also some innovative techniques that make a lot of sense and give a deeper understanding of how to make fiction work. The description of techniques is good, how other authors employ them is clearly chown, but how to use them in your own writing gets a bit woolly. This isn't surprising since he can't know the specifics of your story, but at times it felt too generic in its approach, Most of the information here is the standard stuff you would find in any good how-to book on writing. But there are also some innovative techniques that make a lot of sense and give a deeper understanding of how to make fiction work. The description of techniques is good, how other authors employ them is clearly chown, but how to use them in your own writing gets a bit woolly. This isn't surprising since he can't know the specifics of your story, but at times it felt too generic in its approach, the way an example of an equation in maths class seems straightforward, but ends up having little bearing on the questions in the text book once you start your homework at home. The most useful concept, in my opinion, was that of micro-tension. Every piece of dialogue or action or narrative needs to suggest more than basic facts and information. In order to do this you can simply adjust the tone of delivery to become slightly more antagonistic and that will create tension. For example: Jack stood at the bus stop. The buses arrived every 15 min and the journey to work took half an hour. In this example let's say you need to know about Jack's journey for later events to make sense. The information is straightforward exposition. However, you can add tension by doing something like this: Jack stood at the bus stop. Supposedly the buses came every 15 min but that was a joke. And they were always crammed full. Half an hour of sweaty armpits to look forward to. By creating a sense of dissatisfaction, even if it's within the character's own mind, we create conflict between the idea of the bus coming and his issues with the service. That's where the tension comes from, opposing ideas within a single thought. For more examples of how to use micro-tension go HERE. Overall a useful book for the serious aspiring author, although it does take some studying to get the best out of it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anonymous-9 Anonymous-9

    I love Donald Maass' take on writing and what makes a good book. (I also own WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL.) Maass discourages churning out pages which may result in a book, yes, but what's the quality? Like only the best editors, Maass pushes writers to push past "good" and strive for excellent. The introductory chapter with a section on "Status Seekers and Storytellers" holds up a mirror--reading it was a reality check. Maass cuts through the bulls*%!, which he describes as writers declaring, "Th I love Donald Maass' take on writing and what makes a good book. (I also own WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL.) Maass discourages churning out pages which may result in a book, yes, but what's the quality? Like only the best editors, Maass pushes writers to push past "good" and strive for excellent. The introductory chapter with a section on "Status Seekers and Storytellers" holds up a mirror--reading it was a reality check. Maass cuts through the bulls*%!, which he describes as writers declaring, "The book wrote itself!" and gets down to the deconstruction of great stories. My favorite quote among many: "Storytellers look not to publishers to make them successful, but to themselves. They wonder how to top themselves with each new novel. Their grumbles are not about getting toured but about getting more time to deliver. Storytellers take calculated risks with their fiction. Mostly they try to make their stories bigger."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I'm about halfway through the first draft of my novel, spinning my wheels in that notorious middle-plot wasteland where not enough is happening. I can see where the story needs to go (I do know the ending!), but I've lost my momentum. One of my characters is pointless, I'm overrun with backstory, and there are way too many scenes without tension. I realize it's a first draft and some crappiness is permitted at this point, but in trying to get myself out of the rut, I thought I'd finally give thi I'm about halfway through the first draft of my novel, spinning my wheels in that notorious middle-plot wasteland where not enough is happening. I can see where the story needs to go (I do know the ending!), but I've lost my momentum. One of my characters is pointless, I'm overrun with backstory, and there are way too many scenes without tension. I realize it's a first draft and some crappiness is permitted at this point, but in trying to get myself out of the rut, I thought I'd finally give this book a shot. It's been on my shelf for ages and folks have told me it's great. Knowing that a lot of the exercises were revision-oriented, I planned to wait until the draft was complete, but I finally thought what the heck. I'm glad I didn't wait. I've already worked through Maass's exercises on character (very helpful!) and his chapter on micro-tension alone is worth the cover price. As with Writing the Breakout Novel, he shares numerous examples of writers doing it "right" (as usual, spoilers abound -- had to skip a few of these!). You get brief glimpses behind the curtain at his lit agency, too, as he mentions particular approaches to storytelling that cause everyone in the office to groan. ("Weather beginning!") I wouldn't say this book is a catch-all for problems with your novel, but there's some great food for thought here on how to keep a reader's (and literary agent's) attention.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Taka

    Bravo-- Because Donald Maass's earlier book, Writing the Breakout Novel was so good, I was afraid of being let down by his newest and didn't even touch it for a while when it arrived in mail. What is he going to say that could be better? Is this going to be just a rehash of the old material in his earlier book? Doubts swirled, but I finally convinced myself to read it. What a ride. He goes well above and beyond my highest expectations. Compared to his earlier book, the book is more tightly organized Bravo-- Because Donald Maass's earlier book, Writing the Breakout Novel was so good, I was afraid of being let down by his newest and didn't even touch it for a while when it arrived in mail. What is he going to say that could be better? Is this going to be just a rehash of the old material in his earlier book? Doubts swirled, but I finally convinced myself to read it. What a ride. He goes well above and beyond my highest expectations. Compared to his earlier book, the book is more tightly organized and focused, and comes with tons of practical tools to energize your manuscript with - something his earlier book didn't have. He really goes in depth with the most important topics of writing fiction, and Chapter 8 on micro-tension alone is worth the price of the entire book in my opinion. It is extremely difficult to determine the cause from effects. What makes a good story? That is the million-dollar question I have been asking myself ever since I began writing seriously. I've read a fair number of books on writing but none of them seemed to do it for me. I groped further and read book after book, classic after classic in search of the holy grail of storytelling. But I couldn't figure it out. When I read Murakami, for example, I would lose myself in his world as if by magic and when I came back out of it, I could only say, "What the hell happened?" And it looks like Mr. Maass could be the Galahad I have been looking for as he has a theory on the secret workings of this magic of good fiction. If not, at least he gives us a key to unlocking the mystery of The Good Story. What's this key, this Holy Grail of Storytelling? That, my friends, you must find for yourself between the covers of this book. A must read for any serious fiction writer.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Luis

    As aspiring writer one can feel overwhelmed with the amount of available books about how to become a successful writer. The true is : there is no magical recipe and after a few readings about the matter, you are going to realize the best way to start to write your own fiction is reading the masters and also a few non memorable writers (is always useful to have examples about how not to write). The challenge here is to identify how those writers achieve the pages we enjoy and admire. The fire in As aspiring writer one can feel overwhelmed with the amount of available books about how to become a successful writer. The true is : there is no magical recipe and after a few readings about the matter, you are going to realize the best way to start to write your own fiction is reading the masters and also a few non memorable writers (is always useful to have examples about how not to write). The challenge here is to identify how those writers achieve the pages we enjoy and admire. The fire in fiction by Donald Mass excels showing us how writers do it. He show us some passages and explain with detail how they handle dramatic and comic effects, voices and other fiction devices that enrich novels. The author , who is a Literary agent, seems to be focused on advice us about how to made our manuscripts acceptable for publishing. In the book’s introduction he distinguish two kind of writers: the status seekers and storytellers and after finish the book definitely I want to be a storyteller. Just a warning: this is a book for someone who already started to write and have a manuscript to work on. At the end of each chapter there is a set of exercises to be applied on our manuscripts. If you are looking for advice about how to start to write I would recommend another book such as the Gotham writers’ Workshop: Writing fiction.[https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Fictio...]

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sammy Sutton

    The Fire in Fiction By Donald Maass This is not the type of book I normally post a review about on my Blog, but it is such a fabulous tool for writers, I just can’t pass up the opportunity. THE FIRE IN FICTION is a powerful guide to writing fiction. The author’s insight into the many styles and skill levels is simply uncanny. The format serves as a fantastic cover-to-cover read as well as a dynamic reference. Mr. Maass gives reason and definition to admirable style. In a short amount of text, he di The Fire in Fiction By Donald Maass This is not the type of book I normally post a review about on my Blog, but it is such a fabulous tool for writers, I just can’t pass up the opportunity. THE FIRE IN FICTION is a powerful guide to writing fiction. The author’s insight into the many styles and skill levels is simply uncanny. The format serves as a fantastic cover-to-cover read as well as a dynamic reference. Mr. Maass gives reason and definition to admirable style. In a short amount of text, he discusses ‘Hemingway-esque minimalism,’ as an unforgiving style that is misunderstood and rarely mastered. This concise detail is consistent throughout THE FIRE IN FICTION as the author tackles a multitude of issues authors face in their struggle to succeed. The guide begins with a memorable introduction that sheds light upon ‘the storyteller and the status seeker.’ Mr. Maas proceeds into one of my favorites, ‘Protagonists vs. Heroes’ from there he tackles issues of character voice and hyperreality. In each and every chapter he simplifies issues often complicated by others. Writers and authors, I highly recommend this guide. It is simply an invaluable tool. On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I give this guide a 6 star review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dean Fox

    Like virtually all of the Donald Maass books on writing I've read, I've left highlighted notes throughout this one for future reference. I highly recommend his books.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Margo Berendsen

    My favorite writing book is Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, but now Birdy will have to share the #1 spot. Bird by Bird and the Fire in Fiction are both about writing but cover completely different things. Bird is about the writing life, getting your first draft down, how to keep your butt in the chair, why you should aways keep paper and pen in your back pocket. Fire is about specifics. You've got your first draft done. Even your second or third draft. But it's still not getting interest. The Fire My favorite writing book is Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, but now Birdy will have to share the #1 spot. Bird by Bird and the Fire in Fiction are both about writing but cover completely different things. Bird is about the writing life, getting your first draft down, how to keep your butt in the chair, why you should aways keep paper and pen in your back pocket. Fire is about specifics. You've got your first draft done. Even your second or third draft. But it's still not getting interest. The Fire in Fiction skips the basics, such as hook and point of view. It goes much deeper. It teaches you how to keep your readers reading after the hook. Want to make your protagonist more memorable? Even harder, want to make your secondary characters more memorable? "Special-ness comes not from a character but from their impact on the protagonist. What are the details that measure their impact? How specific can you make them?" The books that cover the basics teach you that your book is built on scenes and all scenes worth their weight need conflict and must move the plot forward. This book digs deeper and talks about inner and outer turning points in each scene. Maass uses the analogy about how action scenes in movies are planned and shot in detailed frames. He shows you how to rewind and fast-forward through the scenes and how to use oblique angles to heighten effect (and we are talking writing here, not just camera work). Oh and don't forget the tornado effect - that's a powerful device. Sorry you'll have to read the book to find out what it is. The book provides excellent exercises, broken down step-by-step, for how to accomplish things like: - stripping down dialogue to heighten conflict. - Make setting become its own character. - How to link details and emotions. - Develop a character's voice. Experiment with narrative voice. - The extra steps you can take (you MUST take) to make a real antagonist. - Three different techniques to help your reader suspend disbelief (if you are writing fantasy, SF or thrillers). - There's even a chapter on developing humor and satire What you won't find: plot structure - the excellent three act structure or hero's journey structure. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is next on my list for that. (I also recommend the Writer's Journey for this). Here's an example of a step in an exercise that I just picked at random: "Create three hints in this scene that your protaonist or point-of-view character will get what he wants. Build three reasons to believe that he won't get what he wants." The last two chapters are the very best of all. What's the secret to unstoppable page turning? It's NOT action. What? No really. It's micro-tension. Don't know what that is exactly? Maybe you can guess what it is, and are curious about how to implement it? This is a MUST READ. And the last chapter, simply titled "The fire in fiction". All the chapters give you fuel for a good hot fire, but this last chapter is the fire itself. This one blew me away. I'd love to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. No seriously, get this book (after you feel like you've mastered the basics). Buy it, because you'll want to keep it on your desk for constant reference. Make a rule that no other book ever gets placed on top of it. I really think it's that good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Conrad Zero

    I only wish I could give it more stars. For the most part, the topics here are advanced. If you don't have a grip on things like plot, P.O.V., passive writing, and when to show/tell, then you might want to work your way up to this book. But I have no doubts the ideas here will help make anyone's fiction writing better.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I liked this one a lot more than Writing the Breakout Novel (it's more up to date for one thing, but still ten years old) but it wasn't life-changing. As in his earlier book, Maass gives us a lot of examples around 1-2 pages long, and asks us to observe certain characteristics about those extracts that work for him--the problem is, they don't always work for me! Probably because I haven't read the rest of the novel. This is exactly the issue that dogs much teaching of writing; if you really want I liked this one a lot more than Writing the Breakout Novel (it's more up to date for one thing, but still ten years old) but it wasn't life-changing. As in his earlier book, Maass gives us a lot of examples around 1-2 pages long, and asks us to observe certain characteristics about those extracts that work for him--the problem is, they don't always work for me! Probably because I haven't read the rest of the novel. This is exactly the issue that dogs much teaching of writing; if you really want to see what you should do to make a novel great, there's no substitute for reading great novels (ones that are great for YOU, that is, not necessarily "the classics" unless you want to write like a Victorian novelist) and making mental or actual notes on what's working. Maass follows each chapter with a set of exercises, most of which, I'll admit, I didn't do as they would involve HOURS of work. If I ever have six months to spare and am aiming at bringing a draft up to Booker-winning level I will definitely go back to this book, but I quickly get impatient with exercises such as "rewrite this page in reverse chronological order, then as a journal, finally from a great distance" (real example). I think that says a lot about me as a writer, but as a reader I tend to shy away from books that feel overly workshopped and this, my friends, is a workshop (without feedback). Another interesting, good, but ultimately skimmable book on writing that probably won't stick in my head for long. Still, I think it's a really good idea to think about process and craft on a regular basis and this book fits into my intention to do just that.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Cunningham

    I often find it helpful to read a book about craft of writing when I'm in the middle of a project. This book was just what I needed at this point it time; it helped me articulate the core idea/value/takeaway in my novel-in-progress. Highly recommended!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Sabatini

    Another FABULOUS craft book by Donald Maass--sit back and wait for the next one because I'm obsessed with his view of writing and publishing.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Heather Myers

    Exemplary as usual This is an amazing book on the art of creating fiction. A great read. Every writer should have this book in their catalogue. Thank you for writing!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gabe Novoa

    I’ll admit that I caved into buying this one because it was one of those books I suspected I should read and never really got around to picking up, but now Borders is going out of business and I figured well, what better time than now? So I bought it. And I read the first chapter. And I had a serious facepalm Why-did-I-wait-so-absurdly-long-to-read-this-book?-moment. I mean it when I say my only regret was not reading The Fire in Fiction sooner. The advice is fantastic and the exercises at the e I’ll admit that I caved into buying this one because it was one of those books I suspected I should read and never really got around to picking up, but now Borders is going out of business and I figured well, what better time than now? So I bought it. And I read the first chapter. And I had a serious facepalm Why-did-I-wait-so-absurdly-long-to-read-this-book?-moment. I mean it when I say my only regret was not reading The Fire in Fiction sooner. The advice is fantastic and the exercises at the end of the chapter are more useful than I can even describe. I haven’t done all of them yet, but I definitely will. So if you’re looking for a good writing book, I highly recommend this one. It covers everything from deepening characters (yes, even your moustache-twirling antagonist) to writing interesting description to weaving tension throughout your prose. It’s a fantastic read, and one I intend to go through again with a highlighter or two.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    The Fire in Fiction offers a good amount of knowledge on improving one's writing from the perspective of a literary agent. The book covers 9 chapters: Protagonists vs. Heroes Characters Who Matter Scenes That Can't Be Cut The World of the Novel A Singular Voice Making the Impossible Real Hyperreality Tension All the Time The Fire in Fiction Maass provides plenty of examples from bestselling authors to support his points. Most of the advice in here isn't necessarily a "how to write", but larger ideas to The Fire in Fiction offers a good amount of knowledge on improving one's writing from the perspective of a literary agent. The book covers 9 chapters: Protagonists vs. Heroes Characters Who Matter Scenes That Can't Be Cut The World of the Novel A Singular Voice Making the Impossible Real Hyperreality Tension All the Time The Fire in Fiction Maass provides plenty of examples from bestselling authors to support his points. Most of the advice in here isn't necessarily a "how to write", but larger ideas to apply to your own fiction writing. Maass provides Practical Tools Exercises after each chapter to work on and summarize the main points. This isn't the best writing book I've read, but it's worth checking out. And if there's only one take away I learned from this book it's to have something to say that is unique to you when you write.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Not the usual writing manual--this book is ideal for writers who have a complete manuscript, but still want to "punch it up". Author Donald Maass is a well-known literary agent, so as far as marketing fiction goes, there are few more knowledgeable sources. He draws examples from a wide range of fiction, from thrillers and sci-fi to Don DeLillo and Andre Dubus. Chapters cover microtension, dialogue that moves, and other techniques to entice a reader to hang on every word of your 500 page magnum o Not the usual writing manual--this book is ideal for writers who have a complete manuscript, but still want to "punch it up". Author Donald Maass is a well-known literary agent, so as far as marketing fiction goes, there are few more knowledgeable sources. He draws examples from a wide range of fiction, from thrillers and sci-fi to Don DeLillo and Andre Dubus. Chapters cover microtension, dialogue that moves, and other techniques to entice a reader to hang on every word of your 500 page magnum opus--and each feature exercises drawing from your own manuscript (I didn't do them, since this was a library book, but I've earmarked some in my brain and plan to apply them!)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tasha Seegmiller

    I have been a fan of articles written by Maass, but this is the first of his craft books that I have read. From the beginning I was hooked. Maass discusses nuances in different genres as well as techniques within the text itself that is often misused in the way writers try to convey emotion, tension and the like. I was blown away by this book. There were some sample texts I skimmed as they aren't pertinent to what I write, but the exercises at the end of each chapter I will visit time and again. I have been a fan of articles written by Maass, but this is the first of his craft books that I have read. From the beginning I was hooked. Maass discusses nuances in different genres as well as techniques within the text itself that is often misused in the way writers try to convey emotion, tension and the like. I was blown away by this book. There were some sample texts I skimmed as they aren't pertinent to what I write, but the exercises at the end of each chapter I will visit time and again. Brilliant tool. *content warning - some of the samples contain strong language.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna Serra i Vidal

    This is a keeper. And a sure reread. It's important to read Don Maass before writing a story, while writing it and while working on rewrites. And yet again, when you think your story is ready for submission to give it another pass. Then, maybe, your story is ready to go on the big world and start submitting. I specially love the different exercises that he offers at the end of the chapters. This helps me enhance and think about ways to make the story better and tighter.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sheri Fresonke Harper

    The opening pages really incite you to get started improving your writing. I've encountered most of the improvements since I started writing before, but the examples from popular writers are very helpful. What I like best is the exercises throughout where you can check your work and also think about where you are in a given work.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Destine Williams

    It's alright... Too many examples and not enough on the craft. He has interesting ideas but they get bogged down in passages and passages of examples that just make your eyes glaze over. Yes examples are good I understand, but less is more sometimes. And I'd rather know the author's own analysis of the subject being talked about, not the summary of other author's work.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    I loved this book. An eye opener to be sure. I especially appreciate how each technique has an example from a real work of fiction that uses the technique well. Coming to a scene with a character's motivation, emotional mindset, etc. is highly transformative for a writer. Thank you Mr. Maass for your incredible insights into the work and process of writing superior fiction.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Stautz

    A few decent sections highlighting what Maas calls "microtension," but the rest of the book lacks substance. Loaded down by hundreds of examples (some of them not even very good) that barely help explain the topic. Horribly edited/proofread as well, with some hilariously bad typos. Don't bother.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    This stays on my shelf to pull out over and over again. Definitely a book that a writer needs.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ciarra

    The Fire in Fiction is a pretty standard book of writing instruction. I think what Maass brings to the table is a focus on revision and a plethora of examples from various novels. In terms of the revision aspect, this book is geared toward those who have already completed manuscripts. The exercises call upon readers to pull from their finished manuscripts and revise scenes, or suggest types of drafts an author might do. For instance, Maass suggests doing a draft solely focused on revising the fi The Fire in Fiction is a pretty standard book of writing instruction. I think what Maass brings to the table is a focus on revision and a plethora of examples from various novels. In terms of the revision aspect, this book is geared toward those who have already completed manuscripts. The exercises call upon readers to pull from their finished manuscripts and revise scenes, or suggest types of drafts an author might do. For instance, Maass suggests doing a draft solely focused on revising the first and last lines of chapters. Overall, in a world of writing instruction that focuses on getting it down right the first time, it's refreshing to see a book like The Fire in Fiction which centers around getting it right once it's finished. Maass uses a plethora of examples (the list of books he cites is several pages long) which was helpful in getting across his points. By citing multiple novels, he also shows the different ways one can employ his writing techniques. My only gripe is that there was an obvious bias toward thrillers and murder mysteries, which at points left other genres in the ditch. For instance, Chapter 6 is titled, 'Making the Impossible Real' and focuses on making fictional scenarios believable, even if there's no way those scenarios could happen in the real world. Before reading the chapter, I thought it might delve into making a realistic fantasy world, but instead the chapter focused entirely on... thrillers. In fact, Maass seemed to assume the reader was writing a thriller: I hope you like research. If you do, that's good. You'll need tons of it no matter what kind of thriller you're writing. But wait, can't you just postulate the crazy idea behind your story and ask readers to go with it? After all, science-fiction and fantasy writers have been doing that for eons. Sorry. SF and fantasy readers know that what they're reading isn't real. Thriller writers haven't got that luxury Now at the end of the chapter Maass reminds the reader that these techniques apply to all types of fiction, even if he's been talking exclusively about thrillers, but I wonder if that's true? I feel as though this chapter definitely could have gone deeper into stories that are set in worlds entirely different than ours, perhaps with magic systems, and the importance of clear rules and internal logic. The chapter seemed to skim over two genres that are built entirely upon making impossible things seem real, which I thought was a pity. Of course, all books on writing have their own biases, which is why it's important to read so many of them. But asides the thriller/mystery bias, I also found that Maass doesn't touch much on overarching story structure or character arcs. Based on the text citations he uses, Maass is more focused on the quality of prose. All criticisms aside, I would definitely recommend reading this book, particularly if you are beginning the revision process. It may give you ideas of how to change your manuscript (it sure has for me).

  25. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Dobias

    I found The Fire in Fiction to be helpful only in delineating things I've previously discovered and wished I'd known earlier. Perhaps it even has helped me hone in on the target in some areas I tend to slack off in and I would have loved to have read this five years ago before I did all the research that helped me see the targets the first time. What it is most insightful of is that it encompasses the mind of a literary agent and what this one likes and expects from his authors. And perhaps some I found The Fire in Fiction to be helpful only in delineating things I've previously discovered and wished I'd known earlier. Perhaps it even has helped me hone in on the target in some areas I tend to slack off in and I would have loved to have read this five years ago before I did all the research that helped me see the targets the first time. What it is most insightful of is that it encompasses the mind of a literary agent and what this one likes and expects from his authors. And perhaps some bit of unintentional verification of something I have long suspected. They really do like purple prose as long as it is purple prose that helps develop the unique character that is integral to the story. There's a lot of it in these example that he critiques. That leads us to the problem that resides in the pages. This book is a serial compilation of critiques or reviews of what appear to be this authors favorite authors. And I would agree with others that it serves little purpose other than to pat the backs of these authors and fill the pages. Much of what is said here could be condensed and I would expect that to be the first thing that would be recognized by a literary agent when editing this whether it is self edited or otherwise. ( and it would be insane to self edit in this context). Something that would have been helpful is examples of what went wrong amidst all the what went right. And at least twice we were told certain things could not be covered here as they would take too much time and space which becomes ridiculous when one considers that 100 pages of this could have been eliminated by narrowing down all of the favorable reviews. The reason I gave this four stars is that it doesn't deserve five and I am taking enough out of it to rate it higher than three. I definitely recommend this to any author as a refresher on what works for some of this agents favorite writers. There is much to take away and I would also recommend it to the Forums and writers groups who always claim they are helping each other meet the requirements of an agent. This might help them focus a bit on the real as opposed to their preconceived notions. It's also engaging and entertaining despite the bloat of examples. J.L. Dobias

  26. 4 out of 5

    Debra Daniels-zeller

    I liked this book from the section called Status Seekers and Storytellers in the Introduction. While Status Seekers want the most lucrative contract and support for promotion, for storytellers the best promotion is between the covers of their last book. In other words spend the time writing the best book you can. The division of chapters in this book starts with the usual: protagonists and heroes, building characters, the elements of scene, the world of the novel, giving characters voice, making I liked this book from the section called Status Seekers and Storytellers in the Introduction. While Status Seekers want the most lucrative contract and support for promotion, for storytellers the best promotion is between the covers of their last book. In other words spend the time writing the best book you can. The division of chapters in this book starts with the usual: protagonists and heroes, building characters, the elements of scene, the world of the novel, giving characters voice, making the impossible real, hyperreality and tension and conflict. Each chapter ends with "Practical Tools": questions and writing assignments to make writers think more deeply about some aspect of fiction writing. These Practical Tools seem most useful to develop layers of a novel from subtext to action scenes. A useful book, but if you're read a lot of books about writing fiction you'll find significant overlap of material.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Koen Wellens

    You can see that Donald Maass knows what he talks about. He’s reviewed many manuscripts and quotes a lot of books in this masterpiece. He tries to teach you good techniques by showing how other authors use them. Each chapter has bonus exercises that you can use to improve your own work. Fun fact: Donald Maass quotes Jim Butcher, John Scalzi and other writers that I’m a fan of. He points out why I like their books, even though I implicitly knew it. Now I know explicitly. Read the full review at my You can see that Donald Maass knows what he talks about. He’s reviewed many manuscripts and quotes a lot of books in this masterpiece. He tries to teach you good techniques by showing how other authors use them. Each chapter has bonus exercises that you can use to improve your own work. Fun fact: Donald Maass quotes Jim Butcher, John Scalzi and other writers that I’m a fan of. He points out why I like their books, even though I implicitly knew it. Now I know explicitly. Read the full review at my blog.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rodrigo Nemmen

    This book guides you through many strategies for writing a novel. Focus is given on an important issue: how to keep the reader interested. Many practical exercises on character and story building are included at the end of each chapter. If you are writing a novel, this will teach some of the tricks of the trade. Even you are writing nonfiction, this book should give you some valuable advice. My only criticism is really with the kindle version of the book. I think it was barely revised after port This book guides you through many strategies for writing a novel. Focus is given on an important issue: how to keep the reader interested. Many practical exercises on character and story building are included at the end of each chapter. If you are writing a novel, this will teach some of the tricks of the trade. Even you are writing nonfiction, this book should give you some valuable advice. My only criticism is really with the kindle version of the book. I think it was barely revised after porting from the dead tree version. Many typos and punctuation issues to the point where I got annoyed with the bad revision job. Hey amazon folks: please do a better job with the kindle edition! It deserves it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Hughson

    It took a LONG time to get through this book. Not because there were so many exercises to help me improve my writing (there were, but I didn’t do them). The voice and style just didn’t speak to me. In the end, the message from this famous agent and writing teacher: “To your own voice and message be true.” Which has me off on a journaling quest to determine a fresh way to share what’s important to me with readers.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lee Swift

    One of the best on writing books I've ever read. If the author wasnt a reputed agent for many many years, then this might have only got 4 stars because in the last couple of chapters, the examples shown were not as concrete an illustration of the point being made and felt like you could pick any piece of work and say what you wanted it to. As it happens, I'm willing to go with what they say so five stars it is

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