Review: Crafting Novels & Short Stories

Crafting Novels & Short Stories: The Complete Guide to Writing Great Fiction

                        Editors: Writers Digest, forward by James Scott Bell.                                                    

Gold Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Highly Recommended
Genre: Nonfiction/How To

Crafting Novels & Short StoriesCrafting Novels & Short Stories, The Complete Guide to Writing Great Fiction, 2011, is a compilation of articles from the magazine Writer’s Digest. While some people have criticized the book because the articles are all available in back issues of the magazine, I found it very helpful that they were gathered up and put together in one place. Besides, purchasing the book is much cheaper than buying all the issues, if you can even find them. Crafting Novels is currently available at Chapters for about $20. The articles, each written by published authors, are arranged in a logical order, and assembled into seven parts:  characters, plot & conflict, point of view, setting & back-story, dialogue, description & word choice, and revision. Each part contains several chapters.

The book was enjoyable and easy to read, and the authors provided examples of both good and less effective pieces of writing. Throughout the book you will find passages from classics, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Gone With the Wind, with explanations as to what makes the writing so powerful. Some of the authors have provided checklists or prompts to aid the reader with their own writing. For example, when forming character’s emotions, David Corbett suggests drawing from people you know, and the effect they have on you. His checklist has items such as: the first time you told someone you loved them when you were an adult, the first time you struck someone, or a time you asked someone not to hurt you.

There are four chapters devoted to back-story; describing what to do and what to avoid. New writers seem to provide too much information right at the beginning, which can be a huge turnoff to both readers and publishers. A character’s background can be integral to the story, but it needs to be done correctly. Provide a little information, and leave the reader wondering and wanting more. Reveal it bit by bit; weave it into the story. Leigh Michaels says, “Putting too much back-story early in the book to divulge information about your characters can bore your readers and destroy any suspense you may have established. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at withholding information to build suspense.”

Every chapter contains information that is useful, whether you are writing humour, memoirs, mysteries, or science fiction. At the back of the book, Appendix A describes the various genres and sub-genres, and Appendix B lists quite a few suggestions of other writing ‘how to’ books to read, along with a number of websites. Most of the information provided in the book is basic, but if you don’t understand the basics, your writing will not be as good as it could be. I highly recommend this book to everyone who is looking for good, solid information that can be applied to any type of writing. A must have for any writing reference library.

Review by Nanci Pattenden, PLCGS

Categories: Book Reviews

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2 replies

  1. Melissa, glad Nancy posted a review. I’ll check it out. 🙂


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