Writing fiction


Editing and revising fiction

"My pencils outlast their erasers." ~ Vladimir Nabokov

Writers: be savvy about your most important partner in the process.
Rewrite versus Revise versus Edit (Valerie Comer on the differences between rewriting, revising and editing, 4-11-13)
Thinking Fiction: An Overview of the World of Fiction Copyediting (Amy Schneider, on An American Editor, 9-8-14) A checklist of what you will and won't do as a good fiction copyeditor. See her entire American Editor series on fiction editing:
--Thinking Fiction: The Mind-Set of the Fiction Copyeditor (An American Editor, 10-6-14)
--Thinking Fiction: The Style Sheets — Part I: General Style (Amy Schneider, on An American Editor, 1-19-15)
--Thinking Fiction: The Style Sheets — Part II: Characters (2-16-15) ("Because fiction is by nature made up, there’s no real-world reference for its internal factual information — so keeping a detailed style sheet with as much information as possible about the characters (and other elements) is enormously helpful for catching inconsistencies." + "I find it extremely helpful to group characters not alphabetically, but by their relationships to each other.")
--The Style Sheets — Part III: Locations (3-11-15) "If the locations are meant to represent real locations, it’s your job to make sure they are accurate. If they are fictional (or fictionalized), make sure they stay true to themselves within that fictional world."
--The Style Sheets — Part IV: Timeline (4-13-15) "The timeline must be kept consistent with the fictional world of the story, and sometimes also with actual events in the real world. I’ve found that authors often have difficulty maintaining a consistent timeline."
Sample style sheet for fiction (Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, KOK Edit)
Thinking Fiction: Fiction Editors’ Resource Kit (Part I) (Carolyn Haley, on An American Editor, 6-22-15). Reliable online dictionaries, style guides, and grammar/​usage guides. Part 2 (7-1-15, software, specialty references, writing craft how-to's, groups/​lists/​forums/​conferences). Excellent links.
What You Need to Know to Edit Fiction (Erin Brenner, on An American Editor, 8-25-14)
Thinking Fiction: The First Pass — Just Read It! (Amy Schneider, on An American Editor, 11-10-14)
How to Edit Your Novel (agent Nathan Bransford, 5-3-11)
How Not to Write a Novel (Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman). 200 classic mistakes and how to avoid them--a misstep by misstep guide.
Author-Editor Clinic (Seattle-based online instruction in developmental editing of fiction and creative nonfiction--a structured approach to learning how to analyze manuscripts and to communicate with writers). See PDF FAQ about online classes .
Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle (Elmore Leonard, NY Times 7-16-01)
Make Professional Editing Work for You (Allison K Williams, The Writers Bloc, 5-11-15) Why is professional editing so damn expensive? Editing is highly skilled labor. A good editor is a strong analytical thinker. They can say why your storyline isn’t working and ask the right questions for you to realize how to fix it. Alison offers good tips on how to strengthen your ms. so the editor has less to fix.
Critiquing groups (and critiquing) for fiction
Finding the Editor Who’s Right for You (Elisabeth Kaufman, DIY/​MFA, 5-29-14)
Writing A Book: What Happens After The First Draft? (Joanna Penn, 12-7-12) The editing process overall, in short.
How To Make Sure Your Book Is The Best It Can Be (Joanna Penn, 11-27-11, explains her process of drafts, edits, beta readers, and revisions)
Copy-Editing And Beta Readers (Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, 12-11-10)
Editors (some of Joanna Penn's favorites, about how to use them, with an emphasis on UK)
Vetting an Independent Editor (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 5-3-12)
Forty-five more flaws that expose your lack of storytelling experience, part 1 (book doctor Jason Black, Plot to Punctuation, 7-21-11, part 1 of 5 in a good "rookie-alert" tutorial). See also part 2 (7-25-11), part 3 , part 4 (8-19-11), and part 5 (Jason Black, 8-25-11, and that wraps up that series)
Top Ten Writing Mistakes Editors See Every Day (Stephen Carver, Blot the Skrip and Jar It, Confessions of a Creative Writing Teacher, 9-27-14)
Manuscript Management Tools for Fiction Authors (and Editors) (Mary McCauley shares and explains her Timeline and Plot Tracker and her Character Tracker. "Whether you use these tools during your novel-plotting stage or when redrafting is up to you."
How Books Get Finished: Editor And Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to independent editor Alexandra Shelley and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discuss what it takes to get a book from first draft to "finished" book. (She Writes radio, 6-20-11). Excellent on process.
"Beginners," Edited: The Transformation of a Raymond Carver Classic (a fascinating feature on The New Yorker 12-24-07). The original draft of “Beginners” is compared with the final version of the story, retitled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” edited by Gordon Lish, and published in a collection of the same name by Alfred A. Knopf.
A Book Editor Speaks: The Challenge of the First Chapters (David Carr, guest posting on Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer blog)
6 Ways Copyeditors Make Your Book Better (Linda Jay Geldens, guest posting on Joel Friedlander's blog, 5-25-12)
An Editor (Who Helped 'The Help') and an Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to Alexandra Shelley (editor of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help") and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discussing revision, publishing, and how to know when a book is 'finished' (on She Writes Radio).
Dear Author: Deciding on a Voice (David Carr, guest-posting on Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer, 12-15-11)
Be Your Own Copy Editor (an excellent series of tutorial essays by Marcus Trower, author of a book I plan to read despite zero interest in the subject: The Last Wrestlers: A Far Flung Journey In Search of a Manly Art
Fiction Freelancing: Part I – Proofreading for Trade Publishers (Louise Harnby, 5-29-12). " One of the dangers of proofreading fiction is getting so wrapped up in the story that you end up reading the book rather than proofreading it." And you won't be paid as much as if you were proofing technical material.
Fiction Freelancing: Part II – Editing Fiction for Independent Authors (rather than for publishers, a different kettle of fish) (Ben Corrigan, on Louise Harnby's site, 3-6-12)
Fiction Freelancing: Part III – Editing Adult Material (Louise Bolotin, on Louise Harnby's site, 5-6-12))
Fiction Freelancing: Part IV – Editing Genre Fiction (Louise Harnby interviews Marcus Trower, 11-2-13). Trower's tag line: Copy editing for fiction authors in general and crime writers in particular.
The Editor's POV (a forum for freelance editors of fiction and creative nonfiction)

On self-editing:
Marcus Trower Editorial (copy editing for fiction authors, especially crime fiction). He has an interesting series on Be Your Own Copy Editor (self-editing advice from the front line of fiction editing)
Lori Handeland's fiction self-editing checklist
Self-Editing Tips: Part 1 (Sharon K. Miller, Publication Life, 5-30-15). Fascinating rewrite under topic "filter words." For example, she revises "Sarah felt a sinking feeling as she realized she’d forgotten her purse back at the cafe across the street."
to
"Sarah’s stomach sank. Her purse—she’d forgotten it back at the cafe across the street."

Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction? (Suzannah Windsor Freeman, Write it sideways). "Filter words are those that unnecessarily filter the reader’s experience through a character’s point of view."
Avoiding echoes in writing (C.R. Hodges, 2-1-14). Readers can be annoyed without realizing why with "The repetition of a common word in close proximity," "The repetition of an uncommon word, especially in unrelated contexts, even if not in close proximity," or "Echoes of related sounds."
101 of the Best Fiction Writing Tips, Part I ( Suzannah Windsor Freeman, Write it sideways)




Editing Fiction by Lee Masterson and Tina Morgan (Fiction Factor)
Black day for the blue pencil (Blake Morrison, The Observer, 8-5-05) Once they were key figures in literary publishing, respected by writers who acknowledged their contribution to shaping books. But, argues Blake Morrison, editors are now an endangered species
The lost art of editing (Alex Clark, The Guardian, 2-11-11). The long, boozy lunches and smoke-filled parties are now part of publishing's past, but has rigorous line-by-line editing of books been lost too, a casualty of the demands of sales and publicity?

Should fiction writers hire editors? (Writer Beware's excellent links, including some of these:
Should You Pay Someone to Edit Your Work? (Nathan Bransform, agent-turned-author, 10-5-09)
Should I Hire a Freelance Editor? (agent Rachelle Gardner, 3-25-10)
Should You Hire a Professional Editor? (Jane Friedman, Writer Unboxed, 3-19-10)
Kinds of editors/​editing and levels of edit (Writers & Editors blog)
The Doctor Will See You Now (book doctor Lisa Rojany-Buccieri on what book doctors can and cannot do)
What to Expect from a Professional Critique (Margot Finke)
See more such pieces on Writer Beware links.

BOOKS on EDITING AND REVISING FICTION

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print (2nd ed.) by Renni Browne and Dave King. Two professional editors share their wisdom and good and bad examples of important techniques: show and tell, characterization and exposition, point of view, the mechanics and sound (characters' voice) of dialogue, interior monologue, rhythm, variations in paragraph length, repetition, proportion, sophistication, and voice. Several people have recommended this as a primer on fiction writing.
Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon
Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction) by James Scott Bell
The Language of Fiction: A Writer's Stylebook by Brian Shawyer
The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell (emphasizes literary fiction, with many examples from The Great Gatsby
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Critiquing groups (and critiquing) for fiction

How to Critique Fiction (by Victory Crayne, with a checklist)
Critique Circle (an active online writing workshop, with resources for tracking submissions, generating characters and measuring progress on manuscripts)
How To Take Criticism (Joanna Penn,, 12-13-11)
How To Improve Your Novel: On Getting Feedback From An Editor (Joanna Penn, 11-8-10)
Manuscript critiquing: The inside story (by Sophie Playle, on Louise Harnby's site)
A Professional Critique: What Should You Receive for Your Money? (Margot Finke)
How to Cope with Critiquing
Now that I've written my manuscript, should I get a critique? (Rainwater Press, and remember in particular that you'll get different reactions from different people)
How To Critique A Journal Article (The Center for Teaching and Learning at UIS)
Writing Groups: Fiction Writers Wanted (Margo L. Dill's photo-essay on critique-nics and shop talks
Are you happy with your critique group? and Critique Groups, Part 2 (Suzie Quint, Falling in Love with Romance blog)
Choosing Critique Groups (Meredith Efken's Fiction Workbench).
Critique Groups and Writers' Groups (WritingWorld.com), part 3 of Fundamentals of Fiction
On finding those pesky critique groups (Advanced Fiction Writing, which suggests that pre-published authors also check out Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Author!
You can find leads to many more by merely googling "fiction critique groups." How did you find your critique group, and is there one you recommend? Here are a few we found online (and know nothing about, so this is NOT a recommendation):
Critters Workshop, a member of the Critique.org network of workshops for creative endeavors
Maryland Writers' Association critique groups
The Novel Workshop (a peer review group for fiction writers)

BOOKS FOR AND ABOUT CRITIQUING GROUPS
Writing Alone and with Others by Pat Schneider (among other things, including providing writing exercises, describes the widely used Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method)
Writing Alone, Writing Together: A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups by Judy Reeves (full of practical advice and insights)
The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback by Becky Levine
Coffee and Ink: How a Writers Group Can Nourish Your Creativity (by the Monday Night Writers Group, with writing prompts for creative writing groups)

Revision as essential for writing a good novel:
"My pencils outlast their erasers." ~ Vladimir Nabokov
How Books Get Finished: Editor And Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to independent editor Alexandra Shelley and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discuss what it takes to get a book from first draft to "finished" book. (She Writes radio, 6-20-11). Excellent on process.
"Beginners," Edited: The Transformation of a Raymond Carver Classic (a fascinating feature on The New Yorker 12-24-07). The original draft of “Beginners” is compared with the final version of the story, retitled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” edited by Gordon Lish, and published in a collection of the same name by Alfred A. Knopf.

Links to sites, advice, and resources for fiction writers

About Independent Literary Publishing (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, CLMP)

The Adventures of Comma Boy by Keith Cronin (a comic strip for aspiring writers, agents, publishers, and publishing fantasizers, featured in Publishers Marketplace). Comma Boy archives here.

My Advice to Aspiring Authors (Hugh C. Howey's excellent advice, chiefly to fiction writers, is practical; his reasons for recommending self-publishing, very persuasive. Broadly: "The key to making it as a writer is to write a lot, write great stories, publish them yourself, spend more time writing, study the industry, act like a pro, network, be nice, invest in yourself and your craft, and be patient."

Don’t Anyone Put Me in Charge (Hugh Howey, 1-8-14) Some interesting ideas here, among them: "Readers are the ones who build buzz, on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. On their review blogs and on Goodreads. Forget Publishers Weekly. Forget Kirkus. That’s trying to fashion bestsellers through bookstores. Bestsellers happen through readers. Through social media. So we are going to get them the ebook immediately, and price it low enough ($6.99 or less) that they’ll pick up a print copy if they love the work."..."It never ceased to amaze me, working in a bookstore, to see all the promotional money spent while the least-desired format (the hardback) was released. And then a whimper when the paperback came out." "Print needs to appeal to the high end and the disposable end."

Advice on Writing Dystopian Fiction, from Lauren DeStefano & Moira Young (Maryann Yin, GalleyCat, 2-21-12, interviews the authors of the Chemical Garden trilogy and of the Dustland trilogy.

An Editor (Who Helped 'The Help') and an Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to Alexandra Shelley (editor of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help") and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discussing revision, publishing, and how to know when a book is 'finished' (on She Writes Radio).

Archetype vs. Cliché (literary agent Nathan Bransford, 3-2-10)

Articles from Poets & Writers (on poetry, literature, writing, and the arts)

Atwood's Rules for Writing Fiction
“You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you're on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine."
~ Rule 7 of Margaret Atwood's Ten Rules For Writing Fiction (part of the wonderful Guardian collection of essays by many authors (Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy). And here's part two of the Guardian series (Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson).

Not in that series but in the same spirit, what Western novelist Louis L'Amour said: "Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on."

Authors catch fire with self-published e-books .Carol Memmott, USA Today, 2-11, reports that young Amanda Hocking's self-published (digitally) young-adult paranormal novels are selling hundreds of thousands of copies through online bookstores.

Author Links for Mystery Authors (Mainely Murders bookstore's links)


Backstory (M.J. Rose's blog, where authors share secrets, truths, logical and illogical moments that sparked their fiction or memoirs)

Between Books (NY Times Book Review, 5-29-15). What do novelists do between finishing one book and starting the next?

Black day for the blue pencil (Blake Morrison, The Observer, 8-5-05) Once they were key figures in literary publishing, respected by writers who acknowledged their contribution to shaping books. But, argues Morrison, editors are now an endangered species.

Blake Morrison on the paltry sales of literary fiction (Guardian Unlimited, Oct. 19, 2007) Two recent surveys have found that 60 percent of British authors earn less than 10,000 pounds a year

Book Doctors. You've shown publishers your book proposal and samples and they've said, "You need to work with a book doctor." Here are links to some explanations of What Book Doctors Do. But then, how do you find a good book doctor? I know three of the editors who work with this group, and they've been editing manuscripts with a track record of success as books for MANY years: Independent Editors Group. There are many other fine book doctors.

Boxers, Briefs and Books. John Grisham's op-ed piece on what hard work writing is, one theme of the forthcoming collection Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit, ed. by Sonny Brewer (with stories by Grisham, Pat Conroy, Rick Bragg, and many other authors.

The Breakout Novelist (interesting Writania video interview about fiction techniques that keep readers reading, with agent Donald Maass, author of The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers

The Business Rusch: Surviving the Transition, Part 1 by fiction writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch. An interesting series about how writers might deal with the enormous changes rocking and reshaping the book publishing industry. It comes in four parts:
The Business Rusch: Surviving the Transition, Part 1
Publishers (Surviving the Transition, Part 2)
Agents (Surviving the Transition, Part 3
(Plan for the Future (Surviving the Transition Part 4).

Center for Fiction launches Crime Fiction Academy (Launch date: Feb. 2012, Mercantile Library, New York City).

Creating characters
Character chart (a form to fill out to get a firm grasp on your fictional character)
Character questionnaire, including Marcel Proust's questionnaire (Gotham Writers' Workshop)
How to create a character profile (The Lazy Scholar, on Writers Write)
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, with free sample entries here, on The Bookshelf Muse blog. See also the Character traits thesaurus (in sidebar: affectionate, ambitious, bossy, brave, etc.). The write-ups for each of these words make for interesting reading, whether you're writing fiction or a memoir!
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress
Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card
Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster. A classic, lively "witty and opinionated" discussion (based on lectures given at Cambridge)of the fiction of Austen, Dickens, Fielding, Lawrence, Woolf, and others, noted especially for his discussion of "round" and "flat" characters.
Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How To Write The Bad Guys Of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell (drama needs conflict; Morrell explains the subtle but key differences between unlikeable protagonists, anti-heroes, dark heroes, and bad boys)
The Subtle Knife: Writing characters readers trust, but shouldn't (Angela Ackerman, guest blogging for Stina Lindenblatt)
How to Kill (a Character) (Susan J. Morris, Omnivoracious, 8-8-11). Part of Morris's Writers Don't Cry series of blogs on the craft of writing fiction.
Learning from The Wire (agent Nathan Bradsford on the value of complex characters)
Crafting a Crime Fiction Novel and Fifty Ways to Kill a Character (Hallie Ephron, Writer's Digest 4-18-12).
A reader's advice to writers: A word to the novelist on how to write better books by Laura Miller (Salon.com, 2-23-10). For example: "There's a reason why Nick Carraway is the narrator of "The Great Gatsby" while Gatsby himself is the protagonist. Desire is the engine that drives both life and narrative." And: "When you hear someone complain that 'nothing happens' in a work of fiction, it's often because the central character doesn't drive the action."
Writing Strong Women. Various interviews with novelists who create strong women characters (BlogTalkRadio)
How to Create Fictional Characters (John Hewitt, writing prompts and exercises)
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Description, place, and setting
Am including examples from narrative nonfiction, as the principles apply in both genres; in nonfiction you draw them from observation, not your imagination.
“Why’s this so good?” No. 39: Gay Talese diagnoses Frank Sinatra (Maria Henson, Nieman Storyboard 4-24-12)
Getting the story: Luke Dittrich and the tornado (Paige Williams, Nieman Storyboard, 4-13-12)
How to Captivate Readers with Descriptive Writing that Rocks (Rita Kuehn, Writania)
How to write fiction: Adam Foulds on description with meaning (The Guardian, 10-20-11). Choose your words precisely and they will propel your plot forward, says Adam Foulds
Description in Fiction (Denise Robbins)
Creating Unforgettable Settings (Becca Puglisi, The Bookshelf Muse)
The Colors, Textures, Shapes Thesaurus (Angela Ackerman, The Bookshelf Muse).
The Weather Thesaurus (Angela Ackerman, The Bookshelf Muse).
you can read online:
The Significance of Place: An Interview with Barbara Henning (Rafael Otto interviews the poet-novelist for Not Enough Night)
Robert Caro on the Power of Place (Andrea Pitzer's report on his talk at the Compleat Biographer conference, for Nieman Storyboard)
How Your Book's Setting Can Affect Sales (blog item on A Writer's Assistant)
Joyce Carol Oate speaking at Book Passage)' s (FORA.tv video) about her novel The Gravedigger's Daughter, much of which is based on her grandmother, Blanche Morningstar. She speaks of setting as being almost like a character.(51 minutes)
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Deep point of view. Michelle Massaro offers four tips, on RT Book Reviews blog

Dialogue, tips on improving

Another Take on Dialogue Tags (fiction editor Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog, 12-4-13)
Writing Dialogue in a Novel
Dialogue in Fiction (Robert Fisk?)
10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialogue (Ali Luke, WritetoDone)
Writing Dialogue: The 5 Best Ways to Make Your Characters’ Conversations Seem Real (Scott Francis, Writer's Digest, 2-14-12) •
Creating Effective Dialogue (William H. Coles, Editors' Opinions blog, 8-22-09)
Writing Good Dialogue in a Novel (Lia Weston, via Steve Rossiter, Writing Novels in Australia 6-13-13)
Characterization Through Dialogue (Francesca Pelaccia)


Drawing Power (Bob Thompson's long Washington Post story on SPLAT! A Graphic Novel Symposium, or Prose Guy on "how this formerly ghettoized medium became one of the rare publishing categories that's actually expanding")

Don’t Poke the Editor: Six Deadly Don’ts (and Dos) for Dealing with Editors (Susan J. Morris, Omnivoracious, 8-20-12)

18 strategies for brainstorming a title, an excellent guide to developing great titles, from Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers by Scott Norton, posted on Scrib'd

Electronic Literature Organization (ELO)

Elmore Leonard shoots his way into the Library of America (Neely Tucker, Washington Post, 8-29-14) Novelist George Higgins gets a pat on the back, too.

Esquire's 70 Greatest Sentences. Seventy lines that sparkle, invoke, provoke, or are just damn enjoyable to read. Both fiction and nonfiction, including: "But at three o'clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn't work--and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Pasting It Together," 1936

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully: in Ten Minutes (Stephen King's now-classic article, which appeared in The Writer in 1986, reprinted on the Great Writing site).

Fan Fiction (an explanation) and Frequently asked questions (and answers) about fan fiction (Chilling Effects Clearinghouse)

Favorite first and last lines


'This Did Something Powerful to Me': Authors' Favorite First Lines of Books (Joe Fassler,The Atlantic, 7-25-13) Jonathan Franzen, Margaret Atwood, David Gilbert, Roxane Gay, and other writers share their thoughts on what makes an inviting and memorable opening sentence.
My favourite first line – by writers on the 2013 Man Booker prize longlist (Robert McCrum and Tess Reidy, The Observer, 8-3-13) The observer asked the same of 2013's Man Booker prize longlist … with some surprising results
100 Best First Lines from Novels (American Book Review)
The best 100 opening lines from books (The Stylist, UK)
100 best closing lines from books (The Stylist)
100 Best Last Lines from Novels (American Book Review)
You Had Me at the First Line (Kimberlie I. Leon, Huffington Post, 2-27-14).
The Best Lines from New Books (Oprah, 3/​5/​13--click right to move from one to the next)
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Fiction eBooks
Top novelists look to ebooks to challenge the rules of fiction (Vanessa Thorpe, The Observer, 3-9-13). Leading British authors drawn to experiment with the scope of interactive storytelling
Konrath Ebooks Sales Top 100k (A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, 9-22-10). One writer's good news on self-e-pubbed genre novels!
Can literary fiction survive the ebook age? (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 4-27-13) Some claim that literary fiction has 'lost the next generation' of readers – but brilliant writing remains as important as ever
Why genre fiction is an e-reader's best friend (Anna Baddeley, The Guardian, 9-1-12) Are thrillers and crime novels better suited to e-readers than more complex fiction?
Why short is sweet when it comes to digital reading (Anna Baddeley, The Observer, 1-26-13). Sometimes lost as part of a collection, the short story has found a perfect home on e-readers.
Short stories renaissance (Writers and Editors links)
Short story renaissance serves readers, not writers (Stephen Proctor, Baltimore Sun, 9-19-99) There is a genuine explosion in short fiction readership, but the market is not the Good Old Days.

Fiction's Global Crime Wave (Alexandra Alter, WSJ, 7-1-10) Detective novels from Japan, Nigeria, Germany and Korea are pouring into the U.S. as publishers hunt for the next 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.'

Fiction's powers of persuasion. "“There’s something that fiction can do that nonfiction cannot,” [Jodi] Picoult said. “A lot people will not address a controversial subject in nonfiction, but they pick up a novel, and they think they’re being entertained, and almost by accident, by the time they close that last page, they realize they are being forced to re-evaluate whatever opinions they have when they started the book.... Where I believe that nonfiction has the obligation to chronicle the past and what has happened, fiction has the opportunity to change minds, change the future, and change the course of what will happen.” Jodi Picoult discusses the facts of fiction (Braden Kelner, The Tartan, 10-26-14)

Fiction Writers Review (online journal by, for, and about emerging writers)

'Fifty Shades Of Grey': Publishing's Sexiest Trend (Jason Boog, on NPR, 3-15-12). See also Will Fifty Shades of Grey Inspire More Fan Fiction Writers to Publish? (Jason Boog, Galley Cat 3-16-12). An unknown author named E L James recently "scored a seven-figure book deal with Vintage Books to publish her erotica trilogy,Fifty Shades of Grey."

Finding My Father (Erica Bauermeister, guest blogger on One True Thing, Psychology Today, 1-23-13). "My characters are never based on people I know, but sometimes I come to realize that I have been writing a particular story in order to figure out something in my own life. Occasionally it takes years after publication for me to see what a more intuitive part of my psyche was offering up for my education, but sometimes it only takes a sentence."

The Fine Art of Ambiguous Writing: The Power of Omission (Joe Fassler, By Heart, The Atlantic, 2-24-15) In "successful storytelling: There’s as much significance in what’s left out as in what’s actually said....The hard part is non-disclosure. This is really a crucial tenet of narration, perhaps the crucial tenet—and it’s not an innate skill. How do we learn how not to tell things?"

First Person or Third Person? (agent Nathan Bransford, 7-9-07). In first person, "everything that occurs has to be filtered through your narrator's perspective" and "the narrator has to be compelling and likeable." That's for starters. An interesting explanation.

Flash fiction

Flash fiction (1000 words or less -- aka sudden fiction, short short, microfiction, micro-story, postcard fiction, prosetry, and short short story -- this is a helpful Wikipedia entry)
Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-five of North Carolina's Finest Writers, ed. Marianne Gingher
Flash What? (Jason Gurley, WritingWorld.com)
Flashes of Brilliance (S. Joan Popek's tips on writing effective short fiction)
Flashes On The Meridian: Dazzled by Flash Fiction (Pamelyn Casto, Writing-World.com, on the nature of the genre, mentioning some practitioners from earlier years)
• Short stories renaissance
Flash fiction markets (and listening/​reading sites)
Flash Fiction Online
Three-Minute Fiction (NPR Weekend's All Things Considered--listeners submit stories on an assigned theme or in an assigned genre/​format)
Guernica PEN Flash Series. Subscribe to series here.
The Flash Fiction Market (C.M. Saunders, Writing-World.com, provides an extensive list of markets, of which I've linked to only a few)
Flashes in the Dark (horror shorts)
Flash Fiction Friday (a community writing project, periodically assigning a different genre and/​or theme for everyone to write on)
Mxlesia (for women writers)
SmokeLong Quarterly
Untied Shoelaces of the Mind (pays 3 cents a word for up to 1000 words)
Vestal Review ("the longest-running flash fiction magazine in the world")
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Found in Translation, Times op-ed piece by novelist Michael Cunningham (author of The Hours) on translations into a foreign language, and on how he learned that all writing is "a translation from the images in the author’s mind to that which he is able to put down on paper."


Free downloadable e-books on writing, from Michael Allen:
On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile by Michael Allen: http:/​/​www.kingsfieldpublications.co.uk/​rats.PDF
The Truth about Writing ("an essential handbook for novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters" by Michael Allen, free on Scribd):http:/​/​www.scribd.com/​doc/​17414179/​The-Truth-about-Writing
How to Write a Short Story That Works (by Michael Allen, via Scribd)
http:/​/​www.scribd.com/​doc/​18092726/​How-to-Write-a-Short-Story-that-Works
Discovered through John Kremer's Book Marketing Tip of the Week: http:/​/​www.bookmarket.com/​

Granta's once-a-decade list of rising novelists is more important than ever (Philip Hensher, The Independent, 12-31-12). In an increasingly crowded book market, this list of Who will be Who matters to readers because, on the whole, it has got things right. See Best Young Novelists 2013 , which contains links to earlier and different lists of Best Young Novelists (British lists and American).

The Ghost of Miss Truman (Jon L. Breen, in The Weekly Standard, on ghosted celebrity novels, Margaret Truman, and Donald Bain)

Graphic novels
Drawing Power (Bob Thompson's long Washington Post story on SPLAT! A Graphic Novel Symposium, or Prose Guy on "how this formerly ghettoized medium became one of the rare publishing categories that's actually expanding")
Comics and Graphic Novels (NPR's annotated reading list
Graphic Novels to Graphic Prime Time: Proposing TV Adaptations of Comic Books (Dana Jennings, Television, NY Times, 2-14-14)
Graphic novels (Goodreads list)
How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library (Heidi MacDonald, Publishers Weekly, 5-3-13)

Ghostwriting, Part I: The Ballad of Michael Gruber (who has long been the ghostwriter for Robert Tanenbaum, the trial lawyer turned NY Times Bestselling writer). See also Part II: Motivations and Agendas, and Part III: Why do it in the first place?. Posted on Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind (Crime fiction, and more--on hiatus, but old posts are still there and check out the great links, bottom left).


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Romance novels and novelists


Romance Writers of America (RWA) Romance Writers alert! In slow economy, romance writers steam to success. "More than 78 million Americans read at least one romance novel in 2008, according to the Romance Writers of America, up by almost 100 percent since 1998. Meanwhile, total U.S. publisher revenue was essentially flat, up just 1 percent in 2008. Nine out of 10 readers are women."~ Richard Mullins, Tampa Tribune, 8-16-09
Romance Novels, The Last Great Bastion Of Underground Writing (Marisa Bustillos, The Awl, 2-14-12) "Romance literature is underground writing, almost never reviewed or discussed in the newspapers or literary rags, or at a dinner party." A thoughtful piece about a genre that sells far more books than mysteries, science fiction, and serious fiction do. What's that about?
Heaven Help the Christian Writer (Kathryn Lively, Fiction Forum, 1-20-08, with links to material of interest to Christian romance readers and writers)
Novel rejected? There’s an e-book gold rush! (Neely Tucker, Washington Post, 5-6-11). "In the winter of 2010, the cheerfully effervescent romance novelist Nyree Belleville suffered the same fate as many a scribe — she was dropped by her publisher. The most any of her 12 spicy romances, penned under the name Bella Andre, had earned was $21,000." She got the rights to her novels back and began self-publishing. "Here’s what her first quarter looked like: 56,008 books sold; income, $116,264....There is no good comparison for what’s happening in the frontier world of self-published e-books, because there has never been anything like it in publishing history."
Historical romance (set before World War ii -- Wikipedia entry)
Charlotte Dillon's resources for romance writers
A Conversation with Nora Roberts (Claire E. White interviews the romance novelist for Writers Write)
Romance Divas
Romance Junkies blog (many entries and links to authors)
The Writer's Bump (Patti Struble's blog with links to genre writers' blogs along right)
The Dreaded Synopsis by romance writer Elizabeth Sinclair
Dear Author ( (bloggers/​readers/​reviewers who love genre fiction, especially as e-books -- contests, giveaways, author interviews, reviews, Top 100 Romances (as selected by Dear Author reviewers)
Writing Romance Fiction for Love and Money by Helene Schellenberg Barnhart
Rejection, Romance, and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer by Laura Resnick (Kindle, the dark side of the professional writing game--everything that can go wrong).
Chick Lit Writers of the World (a special-interest online chapter of Romance Writers of America -- all sub-genres from spicy to inspirational to young adult to paranormal)
Historical Romance Club
Harlequin's foray into vanity publishing of romance novels. Paid subscribers to Publishers Lunch Deluxe got a useful summary of Harlequin's "Harlequin Horizons" self-publishing enterprise, an effort to make money from the romance writers it doesn't publish by selling them vanity publishing services. Sharp rebukes from writers and writers' organizations included an announcement from Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), which, concerned that the new 'self-publishing' venture's "sole purpose appears to be the enrichment of the corporate coffers at the expense of aspiring writers," declared that "NO titles from ANY Harlequin imprint will be counted as qualifying for membership in SFWA." Bestselling novelist Nora Roberts, in one of 799 responses to a story on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, wrote: "Vanity press is called vanity for a reason. You’re paying for your ego. That’s fine, dealer’s choice. But it’s a different matter when a big brand publisher uses its name and its resources to sell this as dream fulfillment, advertises it as such while trying to claim it’s not really their brand being used to make money on mss they’ve rejected as not worthy of that brand in the first place."
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Historical novels
(and awards for historical fiction)


Historical Writers' Association (for professional writers of historical fiction and nonfiction, founded by members of the Crime Writers' Association)
Historical Novel Society (the home 0f historical fiction online). The HNS conference (U.S.) and HNF conferences in UK and Austraulasia.
Historical Fiction Online (forum to discuss historical romance, historical mystery, historical fantasy -- by author, by era, by country/​continent -- with book reviews by members)
Historical Novel Society (a community for authors, readers, agents, and publishers)
Historical novels booklists (Goodreads)
Elizabeth Chadwick's Reference Library (an excellent personal list of medieval history reference books for historical novel writing, posted on her blog)
Defining the Genre: What are the rules for historical fiction? (Sarah Johnson, Historical Novel Society). See also Defining the genre (Richard Lee). Very specific!
* • Historical fiction, fictional history: stories we tell about the past (Camilla Nelson, Christine de Matos, The Conversation, 6-9-15) Introductory article in a series examining the links, problems and dynamics of writing, recording and recreating history, whether in fiction or nonfiction). Can fiction and history really be kept secret? See special website edition of open-access academic journal Text: Fictional histories and historical fictions: Writing history in the twenty-first century (ed. Camilla Nelson and Christine de Matos, Text website series, No. 28, April 2015) which "attempts to get beyond the well rehearsed and often acrimonious exchanges between writers and historians that have been such a characteristic of the History Wars of the last ten years, with its boundary-riding rhetoric."
Google Ngram viewer . Tracks when and how usage patterns changed in history (based on how often words and word combination appear in books over time) and useful for avoiding anachronistic slang in historical fiction.

What Editors Are Looking For In Historical Fiction
by Jane Johnson, on the blog Writing Historical Novels
Tips For Writing Historical Novels (Paul Dowswell, Writing Historical Novels)
HistoricalNovels.info (more than 5,000 novels listed by time and place, with more than 400 reviews)
Reusable cover art. Sarah Johnson's site showing how certain art gets used and reused for covers on historical novels (and Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of Love, hardcover edition). Art directors: your secret is out!
Historical Fiction: Masters of the Past (Sarah L. Johnson, Bookmarks Magazine, 1-20-06, on twenty classic historical novels and their legacy)
Historical fiction (Wikipedia entry, with useful book lists). See also Wikipedia lists for alternate history, historical fantasy , historical novel , historical romance (set before World War II), sword and sandal epics, historical whodunnit
The Dead Are Real (Larissa Macfarquhar, The New Yorker, 10-15-12). Fascinating profile of Hilary Mantel (author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies--first of her life, and then of her life as a historical novelist--one trying to imagine real history. "So much of fiction is a matter of trying to force uncertainty and freedom into a process that is in fact entirely determined by choice or events. When she is writing historical fiction, she knows what will happen and can do nothing about it, but she must try to imagine the events as if the outcome were not yet fixed, from the perspective of the characters, who are moving forward in ignorance. This is not just an emotional business of entering the characters’ point of view; it is also a matter of remembering that at every point things could have been different. What she, the author, knows is history, not fate."
See also Mantel Takes Up Betrayal, Beheadings In 'Bodies' (Fresh Air interview, NPR, WHYY, 11-26-12); The unquiet mind of Hilary Mantel (New Statesman, 10-3-12 -- where she talks to Sophie Elmhirst about memory, class, Bring Up the Bodies and the unsettled writer’s life). On Hilary Mantel's second Booker Win and here she is on a podcast: Hilary Mantel on Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (Guardian Books, 12-21-12). She might be appalled to have her entry in the same group as some of the bodice rippers on other sites to which this page links.

Awards for historical fiction (you'll find good reading lists here):
Historical Novel Society awards
James Fenimore Cooper Prize (chosen for its literary quality and historical scholarship, by The Society of American Historians, award $2,000 and a certificate)
Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People (Canadian Children's Book Centre)
David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction ((Langum Charitable Trust)
The Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction (Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, $5,000)
Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Walter Scott Prize (this £25,000 award for historical fiction, sponsored by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, is awarded annually in June at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival in Melrose)
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How Not to Write a Novel (the blog for Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman's instruction guide for aspiring novelists, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide)

How to Break the Rules. Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency posts Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Rules of Writing and Elmore Leonard's rules, and gives examples of writers who have successfully broken some of the rules. Her blog, Book Cannibal, is about fiction.

How to Critique Fiction (Victory Crayne)

How to Edit Your Novel (agent Nathan Bransford, 5-3-11)

How to Format Your Manuscript (agent Nathan Bransford, 2-14-07)

How to Sell a Book? Good Old Word Of Mouth (read or listen to Lynn Neary, NPR, 9-10-10 on the launching of Emma Donoghue's novel Room, from which NPR posts an excerpt.)

How To Think Like A Writer (Carolyn Gregoire, Huff Post, 5-15-14) "Many great writers, including Joan Didion and Don DeLillo, have said that their purpose for putting words on paper is to find clarity with their thoughts, and have described the process of writing as one of becoming familiar with their own minds." Advice from the masters.

How to Write a Great Novel (Alexandra Alter, WSJ, 11-6-09). From writing in the bathroom (Junot Díaz) to dressing in character (Nicholson Baker), 11 top authors share their methods for getting the story on the page

How to Write a Novel (an overview by agent Nathan Bransford, 8-17-10)

How to Write a Short Story That Works (Michael Allen, free download on Scribd)

How to write a synopsis
How to Write a Synopsis (Nathan Bransford)
The Dreaded Synopsis by romance writer Elizabeth Sinclair
A "Secret" Formula for Creating a Short Synopsis for Your Book (Mike Wells, 5-15-11)
Story Synopsis Quiz (Mike Wells)
How to Write a Brilliant Blurb for Your Book (Mike Wells on how a blurb is different from a synopsis, among other things)
Summaries, Synopses, and Blurbs (WriteWorld's excellent brief explanations and links to good examples)


The Hum Inside the Skull, Revisited (symposum, 1-16-05). The NY Times asked a group of fiction writers, age 40 or younger, which writer or writers who had most influenced their work and to explain how. Read responses from Susan Choi, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nell Freudenberger, Jhumpa Lahiri, JT Leroy, Maile Meloy, Gary Shteyngart, Zadie Smith, Colson Whitehead

Hypertext technologies for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (Eastgate, Storyspace, serious interactive writing)

Implied authors and real-world authors. Krugman, Krauthammer and Their Implied Authors (Cass R. Sunstein, Bloomberg, 12-10-12). "Implied authors may or may not be like their real-world counterparts. A novelist may be cruel and vicious to his family and friends, but in his novels, his implied author may be kind and gentle. A poet who is a loving wife and mother may produce poetry whose implied author is venomous and full of rage." A fascinating explanation of how things work in fiction and narrative nonfiction. But he also applies it to political discussions: "...the characteristics of implied authors tend to be contagious. In particular, contempt and suspicion, and a fundamental lack of generosity, spread like wildfire. "

The Institute of Children's Literature publishes a useful newsletter ($20 a year) for children's book writers, but also provides many useful articles and transcripts free onlne, at Rx for Writers (a topical index for articles and transcripts on writing for children)

In Their Own Words? Maybe (Julie Bosman, NY Times, 6-1-11). There is an understanding among publishers, editors and agents that ghostwriters are behind many novels by celebrities. Says Bob Gottlieb, “It’s a way to extend the footprint of the celebrity.”

Joyce Carol Oate speaking at Book Passage) s (FORA.tv video) about her novel The Gravedigger's Daughter, much of which is based on her grandmother, Blanche Morningstar. She speaks of setting as being almost like a character.(51 minutes)

Genre fiction and fiction genres


Why Genre Matters (Los Angeles Review of Books, 8-23-13). This conversation began as a panel at AWP — the annual convention for creative writing programs and teachers — with Dinah Lenney, Sven Birkerts, Judith Kitchen, Scott Nadelson, and David Biespiel.
From ‘Fifty Shades’ to ‘After’: Why publishers want fan fiction to go mainstream (Jessica Contrera, Wash Post, 10-24-14)
Why Fan Fiction Is The Future of Publishing (Oliver Jones, Daily Beast, 2-9-15) "Not long ago, fan fiction was considered by the publishing world as little more than the literary equivalent of an annoying copycat little brother. But what was once viewed as either uncreative, a legal morass of copyright issues, or both, is now seen as a potential savior for a publishing industry still finding its moorings in the age of digital media."
Genre Descriptions (Fiction) (Agent query) Adventure, chick lit, children's, Christian, commercial, crime, erotica, family saga, fantasy, gay & lesbian, graphic novels, historical fiction, horror, humor/​satire, literary, middle grade, military/​espionage, multicultural, mystery, new adult, offbeat/​quirky, romance, science fiction, short stories, thrillers, suspense, Western, women's fiction, young adult
Literary genres (Wikipedia's long barebones list)
Fiction Genres (agent Mark Malatesta's list). See his Book Genre Dictionary.
Book Country (a place to discover, share, and sell fiction). At this interesting Penguin Books fiction-community site (read its revealing FAQ) you can sell your fiction eBooks and you can post chapters of genre fiction to be peer-reviewed.
35 Genres and Other Varieties of Fiction (Mark Nichol, DailyWritingTips)
A Complete Guide to the Types of Novels
(Finding Your Market)
(Harvey Chapman)
Why Are So Many Literary Writers Shifting into Genre? (Kim Wright, The Millions, 9-2-11) Is it a mass sellout, a belated and half-hearted attempt by writers to chase the market? Or are two disparate worlds finally merging?
Storyville: What is Literary Fiction? (Richard Thomas, Lit Reactor, 8-1-13) Literary fiction is generally considered to be the opposite of genre fiction.
Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre Fiction Is Disruptive Technology (Lev Grossman, Time, 5-23-12) How science fiction, fantasy, romance, mysteries and all the rest will take over the world
Literary Fiction is a Genre: A List (Edan Lepucki, The Millions, 10-22-12) Let's consider literary fiction as a straightforward genre, like romance or science fiction, with certain expected tropes and motifs.
Fiction Freelancing: Part IV – Editing Genre Fiction (Louise Harnby interviews Marcus Trower, 11-2-13). Trower's tag line: Copy editing for fiction authors in general and crime writers in particular.
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I Do Believe in Literature. What Does It Mean to Be Someone Else? (Jeff Maehre, Talking Writing, 3-7-11)

Markets for novels and short stories


That difficult first novel (Kate Kellaway, The Observer, 3-13-07). There has never been a tougher time to be a debut novelist - only a tiny fraction receive six-figure advances, and most manuscripts end up in the shredder. So, what makes or breaks the first-timers? Kate Kellaway reports and talks to five who made it into print.
Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (Rachel Randall, Writer's Digest)
Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 26th edition!)
Writing Links & Links for Writers of Fiction (Internet-Resources.com's excellent links, some of which are to fiction markets)
Ralan.com (Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza). See, for example, Pro markets, Semi-pro markets, and Book markets (mostly genre fiction)

"...the literary scene is a kind of Medusa’s raft, small and sinking, and one’s instinct when a newcomer tries to clamber aboard is to step on his fingers. "~John Updike, quoted by Isaac Asimov


Markets for short stories
(This is a FAR from complete set of links to short story markets, or info about them)
Short Fiction Factor
Short Fiction Markets (AbsoluteWrite.com)
Literary Magazines (TheWritersSite)
The Market List (for genre fiction writers)
Orbit Short Fiction. Hachette's new program, described by Publishers Weekly as Orbit Selling E-Book Short Stories (PW, 4-19-11)
Short story markets (JBWB, Jacqui Bennet Writers Bureau, UK
Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (Rachel Randall, Writer's Digest, 2014)
Duotrope (for short fiction, poetry, and novels/​collections) (no nothing about this market)
Flash fiction (scroll down for Flash Fiction markets)
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MFA literary fiction vs. NYC

Must reading for instructors and participants in Master in Fine Arts programs:
How Iowa Flattened Literature (Eric Bennett, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2-10-14). With CIA help, writers were enlisted to battle both Communism and egg-headed abstraction. The damage to writing lingers.
Master’s in Chick Lit (Karin Gillespie, Draft, NY Times, 4-16-14). The view from the other side.
Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One (Ryan Boudinot, The Stranger, 2-27-15)
Nobody cares about your book: Why that “Things I Can Say About MFAs” essay struck such a nerve with writers (Laura Miller, Salon, 3-4-15) A former writing instructor causes outrage by trashing his old job and students -- but he makes some good points
I Was the MFA Student Who Made Ryan Boudinot Cry (J.C. Sevcik, The Stranger, 3-4-15) "An instructor with an ethos of exacting excellence by means of brutal expectations probably doesn't belong in a hippy college full of sensitive snowflakes."
An Interview with Ryan Boudinot About His MFA Piece That Blew Up the Internet (Christopher Frizzelle, The Stranger, 3-3-15)
5 Unexpected Lessons From Inside the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (Jessica Strawser, Writer's Digest 3-18-13)
Iowa Writers' Workshop
Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Famous for Training Top Writers, Turns 75 (transcript of short PBS documentary, 4-7-11) and an interview with director Lan Samantha Chang
Creative Writing, via a Workshop or the Big City: ‘MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction’ (Dwight Garner, NY Times, 2-25-14) Review of MFA VS NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction, ed. by Chad Harbach
The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing by Mark McGurl (how some of our top writers have influenced and been influenced by Creative Writing programs)
Bucking the establishment:How self-published writers can sidestep literary-world snubs (Jennifer Levin, Pasatiempo, 2-6-15) “The MFA is essentially a pyramid scheme that creates lots of people with terminal degrees in literary writing who have no employable skills other than teaching terminal degrees in literary writing,” [Jonathan] Penton said. “So unless this expands forever, the market will eventually collapse....This level of competition means that such graduates need to have published books to secure even adjunct teaching positions, so micropublishing, Penton said, has become the backbone of the MFA industry. He concedes that, at the tenured level, mainstream publication continues to be a requirement, so anyone hoping for real success in academia still needs to work toward that."
For Writers' Program, a New Pedagogy (Dinitia Smith, NY Times, 4-18-05)
Iowa Writers’ Workshop (C. Piper, The Gist, 5-17-11)
Batuman’s Take Down of MFA Literary Fiction (Robert Fay)
Get a Real Degree (Elif Batuman, London Review of Books, 9-2010), in a review of McGurl's book, Batuman writes: "The central claims of The Programme Era are beyond dispute: the creative writing programme has exercised the single most determining influence on postwar American literary production, and any convincing interpretation of the literary works themselves has to take its role into account. (In a series of inspired readings, McGurl demonstrates that the plantation in Beloved, the mental ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the bus in Robert Olen Butler’s Mr Spaceman all function as metaphors for the creative writing workshop.) McGurl also provides a smart and useful typology of ‘programme’ fiction (defined as the prose work of MFA graduates and/​or instructors), divided into three main groups: ‘technomodernism’ (John Barth, Thomas Pynchon), ‘high cultural pluralism’ (Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros) and ‘lower-middle-class modernism’ (Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates), with Venn diagrams illustrating the overlap between these groups, and their polarisation by aesthetic sub-tendencies such as maximalism and minimalism." (But read the whole thing!)
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman, See review: A return to literary classics, with a twist (David Matlin, The National 5-23-11)
Show or Tell: Should creative writing be taught? (Louis Menand, The New Yorker 6-8-09) About creative writing workshops, especially the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
A “Real Job”: The Legitimacy of Creative Writing (Kara Cochran, FictionSoutheast, 3-4-15)
The Top 25 Underrated Creative Writing MFA Programs (2011-2012) (Seth Abramson, Huff Post, 4-18-11)
Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP)
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More journalists and fiction writers are shifting to writing videogames (Stephany Nunneley, vg247, 11-19-10)

Mystery, suspense, thrillers, crime novels, and cozies

(a potpourri, in random order!)

Books for Fiction Writers (Writers and Editors)
Murder Must Advertise (a free email discussion list about how to promote a new mystery book)
The guilty vicarage: Notes on the detective story, by an addict by W.H. (Wystan Hugh) Auden (Harper's Magazine, May 1948)
The mystery of mysteries: What really keeps us reading (Mark Kingwell, The Globe and Mail, 5-18-12)
Cozy Mysteries: Murder Most Fair (Laura DiSilverio, 9-7-12)
PEN Ten with Laura Lippman (Alex Segura interviewing, 3-3-15) Lippman: "With true crime stories, we read for disengagement, looking for the moment that assures us that the horrible thing before us cannot happen to us. We cannot afford true empathy. (Sympathy, yes, but not true empathy.) Crime fiction, good crime fiction, sneaks up on people. Safe in our armchairs or beds, we consider the unthinkable—the violent death of someone we love—and admit to ourselves how unsafe and random the universe is."
How to Become a Detective
Mystery vs. Suspense Thriller Book Genres (novelist Janet L. Smith, MysteryNet.com)
Film director François Truffaut interviews Alfred Hitchcock (12 hours of interviews with the master of suspense films)
Sleuth Fest (writer-oriented mystery writing conference in Florida, February)
Suzie Quint applies problem-solving with plots to novels in her review of Syd Field's book, The Screenwriter's Problem Solver: How to Recognize, Identify, and Define Screenwriting Problems.
"Twenty rules for writing detective stories" (S.S. Van Dine, American Magazine, 1928--reposted on Gaslight (an Internet discussion list which reviews one story a week from the genres of mystery, adventure and The Weird, written between 1800 and 1919)
Crafting a Crime Fiction Novel and Fifty Ways to Kill a Character (Hallie Ephron, Writer's Digest 4-18-12).
Writing Genre Fiction, PDF, outline of topics in Thomas Milhorn's book Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft
The Gumshoe Site (Jiro Kimura's excellent site)
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind: Crime fiction, and more (Sarah Weinman)
Crime Always Pays
CrimeSpot.net
Detectives Beyond Borders (Peter Rozovsky's blog)
Dorothy L (an online discussion group for mystery lovers)
Jen's Book Thoughts
The Rap Sheet
Spinetingler Magazine
The Stiletto Gang (blog in which mystery writers Evelyn David, Marilyn Meredith, Maggie Barbieri, Rachel Brady, Misa Ramirez, Susan McBride and guests bring mystery, humor, and high heels to the world)
Women of Mystery (blog with entries such as It's All in the Point of View: POV and Laura K. Curtis's on Fifty Shades of What? (is it mommy porn?)
New England Crime Bake (mystery conference for writers and readers)
Wicked Cozy Authors (mysteries with a New England accent)
Maine Crime Writers
Author Links for Mystery Authors (Mainely Murders bookstore's links)
Phoenix Press: Depression Era Pulp (collectors love pulp fiction from the Depression era especially for its often kitschy covers)[Back to Top]

The differences between mysteries,
suspense novels, and thrillers


At the second Books Alive conference, on the panel on the Mystery Market, novelist Donna Andrews made this distinction: In suspense novels, you know whodunit or is planning to. The mystery is, Can X stop them? With mysteries, you don't know whodunit, and will find out at the end. This sent me looking for more on these distinctions between subgenres. For example there is more action in thrillers than in suspense. You may find these interesting:
The difference between a suspense and a mystery (Suspense Sisters). Scroll down for 16 different responses, including this one: "A mystery is a power fantasy; we identify with the detective. Suspense is a victim fantasy; we identify with someone at the mercy of others."
The Difference Between Mysteries, Suspense and Thrillers (Nathan Bransford's blog)
Mystery vs. Suspense Thriller Book Genres (Janet L. Smith on MysteryNet.com)
Online discussion on Goodreads (including this line: "mysteries make you think, and suspense makes you sweat")
Alfred Hitchcock: The difference between mysteries and suspense (YouTube). "The two things are miles apart. Mystery is an intellectual process, like in a whodunnit. But suspense is essentially an emotional response." You can only get the suspense going by giving them information. With a mystery, you are tempted to look at the last page for the solution to the mystery.
A question of genre: What is the difference between a horror film and a psychological/​suspense thriller? (Justine Smith, House of Mirth and Movies, 4-25-08)
Mystery Books Online on additional mystery categories and subcategories: hard-boiled, soft-boiled, cozy, police procedural, locked room/​puzzle, thriller, paranormal/​urban fantasy/​horror, historical, steampunk, golden age, noir (good may not always triumph), spy/​espionage, themed mysteries (mostly cozy, but with cats, dogs, and other hobbies and interests). And there are military, science, medical, environmental, and other thriller subcategories. (Steampunk suspense is apparently a subgenre of historical fantasy set in the Victorian era, urban gothic suspense with an element of science fiction.)
Other subgenres: historicals, culinary, detective, supernatural, caper, women in peril, noir, detective fiction, and classic whodunits.
Fiction may also be grouped as “genre fiction,” “mainstream fiction,” “category fiction,” and "mass market" fiction.
Investigating Literature through Mystery Novels (KristenKurzawski's high school paper!) "Capers follow a crime, usually a theft, from concept through execution." And "private eyes" and "police procedural" mysteries differ in whether the detective is private or a law enforcement officer--or an amateur detective.
Film noir (Wikipedia). If you're willing to go down the rabbit hole of more definitions, follow the Wikipedia links here and learn that Hollywood's film noir period (early 40s to late 50s) "is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression."
"If it's got a dead body in it, it's a mystery." -- Bruce Cassiday, quoting his neighborhood librarian
“No one has to fail so I can succeed.”--Lawrence Block
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Napkin Fiction Project (Esquire) Esquire magazine sent paper napkins to dozens of writers, inviting them to write fiction on the napkins and send them back. Many did; they are archived and linked to here. Here's one participants story about getting caught up in the project: Esquire’s Napkin Project shows fiction really is delicious. (Nathan Mattise, In pursuit of the trivial), followed by The Esquire Napkin Fiction project saga finale. (Mattise, 7-28-08)

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). An annual internet-based creative writing project, held in November. Participants set aside a month to write a novel as quickly as possible, giving "yourself permission to write without obsessing over quality." Proceeds go to the Office of Letters and Light to pay for the Young Writer's Program—a creative writing program that reaches 2,500 classrooms, 500 communities, and 200 libraries worldwide. Write 50,000 words in a month(November), submitting your words online (scrambled) periodically; nonfiction writers try this popular event to indulge their fantasy that they have a novel in them, and they often do! Whether it's publishable is another thing, but just writing the thing is a kick and gets the creative juices flowing. NaNo has a page of advice with suggestions for revising: I Wrote A Novel, Now What?, NaNo FAQs, and info about Script Frenzy, an April challenge to write 100 pages of original scripted material in 30 days (screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, and graphic novels all welcome).


The One Thing White Writers Get Away With, But Authors of Color Don't (Gracie Jin, Policymic) Gracie Jin asks why only white writers are assumed to be capable of writing about cultures not their own.

On Writing, and Wasting Your Substance (Charles J. Shields, A Biographer's Notebook, 5-18-11). This is on Charles's Kurt Vonnegut blogsite, but it is really about whether novelists manage their creative energy best by socializing or by isolating themselves--and his focus is on David Markson, who did too much of one and then perhaps too much of the other).


Pace--what keeps us reading (Laurence O'Bryan, crime & mystery writer)

Philip Roth Goes Home Again. Scott Raab's article for Esquire, based on an interview with the novelist in the town that provided the setting for so much of his fiction, is a Notable Narrative, as featured on Nieman Storyboard: Esquire goes home with Philip Roth (5-27-11)

Plots, story structure, narrative arc, conflict and suspense

“...the most important part of a story is the piece of it you don’t know.”--from Barbara Kingsolver's novel, The Lacuna
• "All you need to write a ghost story is put a ghost in it. For a detective story you need a plot." ~ P.D. James
What the “Serial” Podcast Teaches Us About Writing Novels (Michael Nye, The Missouri Review, TMR, 11-19-14)
How J.K. Rowling Plotted Harry Potter with a Hand-Drawn Spreadsheet (Colin Marshall, Open Culture, 7-1-14)
Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations. See also Kathy Hansen's streamlined version of Polti's list.
The Seven Basic Plots (Wikipedia, based on a 2004 book by Christopher Booker, a Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning: The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories
The 8 Basic Plots by John Lescroart, who also posted 14 Motives for Murder
Mythical Archetype List (Eiland's Online English Materials, included here because they often represent a plot element)

Man in Hole (Dan Piepenbring, Paris Review, 2-4-15) Turning novels’ plots into data points.
A Novel Method for Detecting Plot (Matthew L. Jockers, 6-5-14). See also follow-up piece: Revealing Sentiment and Plot Arcs with the Syuzhet Package (Matthew Jockers, 2-2-15).
The Pros and Cons of Plotters and Pantsers (The Magic Violinist)
Kurt Vonnegut at the Blackboard (Lapham's Quarterly, 2005). Vonnegut diagrams common successful stories and concludes that some masterpieces were created by artists who were poor storytellers.
Authors on the Importance of Writing the Final Chapter First (Alison Nastasi, Flavorwire, 6-30-13). Nastasi's examples: Margaret Mitchell, J. K. Rowling, Agatha Cristie, Edgar Allen Poe, Graham Greene, and John Irving.
Do You Have a Plot? (Nathan Bransford)
Feytag's Pyramid (one of many online diagrams of the elements of a plot in terms of rising and falling action, inciting incident, denouement, etc.)
Notecarding: Plotting Under Pressure (Holly Lisle)
Plot...or Not? Part 1: The six essential elements of a plot (Kathryn Lance), Part 2: What is the difference between a premise and a plot? . See also How to keep your readers turning pages. Part I: the Cliff
Author Interview: Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett, The Marshall Plan® (Kathleen Bolton, Writer Unboxed, 10-1-10).
Writer Unboxed (website with resources on the craft and business of fiction)
Plotting Your Novel (Lee Masterson, Writing-World.com)
Plotting Your Novel: Six Steps to a Perfect Plot (Stella Cameron)
How to Structure A Story: The Eight-Point Story Arc (Ali Hale, explaining Nigel Watts' principles for structuring fiction, as explained in Write a Novel and Get It Published: A Teach Yourself Guide).
Narrative arc: What the heck is it? (Robb Grindstaff)
Plot and Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish by James Scott Bell. (His LOCK theory: to have a gripping plot you must have a lead, who must have an objective; there must be confrontation and the ending must have "knockout power."
Conflict and Suspense (James Scott Bell)
The Romance Plot (Kirby Farrell, The Denial File: What We Can't Think About and Why, 7-7-14)
• John Truby on the moral structure of stories. "I used to try to just “follow my pen” and I always ended up with 600 pages of material that rambled and had no shape. It was a nightmare. Now, I use The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller (John Truby on story structure), which a student of mine at UCLA turned me onto. Truby is a Yale Ph.D. who studied the moral structure of stories, eschewing the standard three-act structure for something richer and deeper. I thought my head was going to explode. Everything he said made so much sense to me. I boil it down for my students and clients and call it Rolling Stones method of story telling: A character can’t always get what she wants, but sometimes, if she tries, she can get what he or she needs. It’s a less black-and-white method of thinking about story and it allows for so much more creativity. You tell the story through the moral issue the character is facing, through reveals, self-revelations, and reversals.
• "I also follow my hero John Irving’s dictum to know my last sentence." ~novelist Carolyn Leavitt, interviewed by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Voices on Writing, ASJA Monthly (Sept. 2013)
Click here for outline of his three-day workshop, and info about scheduled workshops.
Suzie Quint applies problem-solving with plots to novels in her review of Syd Field's book, The Screenwriter's Problem Solver: How to Recognize, Identify, and Define Screenwriting Problems.
The "Basic" Plots in Literature (Internet Library, ipl2)
Single novel plotting template (S.L. Viehl, Paperback Writer)
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall (a 16-step guide to structuring and plotting a novel, placing action and reaction scenes, plots and subsidiary plots--for those who work well with templates). He has a helpful Marshall Plan website. The book is now also available as software (co-authored with Martha Jewett).
Plot and Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish by James Scott Bell. (His LOCK theory: to have a gripping plot you must have a lead, who must have an objective; there must be confrontation and the ending must have "knockout power."
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson
20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B Tobias
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (2nd edition) by Patricia Highsmith
Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative by Peter Brooks
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Poewar ((John Hewitt, Writer's Resource Center), blogposts about freelancing, poetry, and fiction writing. See Poewar archives./a>

Place and Setting. You'll find wonderful material on this topic in several books on fiction writing. Here are a few items you can read online:
The Significance of Place: An Interview with Barbara Henning (Rafael Otto interviews the poet-novelist)
Robert Caro's speech on the power of setting (Andrea Pitzer's report for Nieman Storyboard 5-24-11)
How Your Book's Setting Can Affect Sales (blog entry on A Writer's Assistant)

Point of View (POV)
Fiction: Point of View (Steve Almond, Writer's Digest, 7-25-08)
Third Person Omniscient vs. Third Person Limited (Nathan Bransford, 11-2-12)
Four Tips for Writing Deep Point of View (Michelle Massaro, RT Book Review, 4-19-11)
What is point of view (Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, 10-18-12)
Point of View in Fiction -
What's Right and What's Wrong
(Rob Parnell, with an example of how not to do)
Point of View in Literature (theory and examples, Novel-Writing-Help.com)

The Portable Writer's Conference: Your Guide to Getting Published (explaining the book publishing process) by Stephen Blake Mettee, author of


A reader's advice to writers: A word to the novelist on how to write better books by Laura Miller (Salon.com, 2-23-10). For example: "There's a reason why Nick Carraway is the narrator of "The Great Gatsby" while Gatsby himself is the protagonist. Desire is the engine that drives both life and narrative." And: "When you hear someone complain that 'nothing happens' in a work of fiction, it's often because the central character doesn't drive the action."

The Reality of a Times Bestseller (Lynn Viehl's frank and fantasy-destroying tale of what happened when her Darkyn novel, Twilight Fall, made the NY Times top 20 mass market bestseller list), followed up by More on the Reality of a Times Bestseller (9-6-09). For more on the making of bestsellers, see All about bestsellers (tips, facts, and stories) (Writers and Editors)

Renaissance (Maggie Pierce Secara's delightful site, rich in material about the Elizabethan world, with designer Paula Katherine Marmor)

Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story and video of Vonnegut on How to write a short story. (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings)

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Interviews with (or about) novelists and short story writers

plus interesting author profiles and obituaries and author-editor conversations
Novelist Larry McMurtry's 'Last Kind Words' (Michael Mechanic, Mother Jones, May/​June 2014) The "Lonesome Dove" author on closeted cowboys, pointless Pulitzers, and his latest Old West novel.
The Henry Ford of Books Todd S. Purdum (Vanity Fair, January 2015) explores the contradictions of James Patterson, the one-man publishing conglomerate and fiction factory.
Donna Tartt and Michael Pietsch (a Slate Book Review author-editor conversation)
Janet Evanovich’s Unexpected Path to Crime Novels (Marc Myers, WSJ, 6-23-15) The creator of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum had a vivid imagination as a child, leading her to art and then writing

Hanya Yanagihara and Gerry Howard (a Slate Book Review author-editor conversation)
George Saunders: "Tenth of December" (interesting interview by Diane Rehm, about the creative process, with a side discussion of Ayn Rand)
Andrés Neuman: "Talking To Ourselves" (Susan Page, on Diane Rehm show, interviews this leading Latin American writer about his latest work, in which in three voices he tells the story of a mother, a dying father and their 10-year-old son and how they are bound by love and transformed by loss. "It's a story about illness...focused on the very usually omitted character who is the caregiver, the one who gets ill with someone else's illness, that very complicated illness, which is implied in the fact of taking care of the loved one and not always being able to save his or her life."
The Running Novelist: Learning how to go the distance (autobiographical essay by Haruki Murakami, New Yorker, 6-9-08)
How to Survive in a Women's Federal Prison (Hannah Levintova, Mother Jones, Nov.-Dec. 2013) Insights from Piper Kerman, whose year in lockup yielded a bestseller (Orange Is the New Black), a hot Netflix series, and a national soapbox. • Interviews with novelists and fiction writers
• Paris Review interviews with fiction writers
Frederik Pohl, Science Fiction Master Who Vaporized Utopias, Dies at 93 (obit, Gerald Jonas, NY Times, 9-3-13)
The unquiet mind of Hilary Mantel (Sophie Elmhirst, New Statesman, 10-3-12) A portrait of the author of the Booker-winning Wolf Hall. She talks to Sophie Elmhirst about memory, class, Bring Up the Bodies and the unsettled writer’s life.
Mantel Takes Up Betrayal, Beheadings In 'Bodies' (Fresh Air, WHYY, 11-26-12) (talking about her novel Bring Up the Bodies, which won a Man Booker prize, and about her endometriosis)
In conversation: Kiran Desai meets Anita Desai (The Guardian, 11-11-11) 'As a child I must have been aware of all these vanished pasts and landscapes'
• Sylvia Plath. Two interesting interviews about Sylvia Plath: Olwyn Hughes,Ted Hughes's sister, tells Sam Jordison how misrepresented she feels the story of Sylvia Plath's death has been (and how unfairly maligned Ted Hughes was -- The Guardian, 1-18-13), and Sylvia Plath's friend, Elizabeth Sigmund, tells Sam Jordison her side of the story -about her memories of getting caught up in a family's tragedy (Guardian, 1-18-13)
Q&A with Novelist Jodi Picoult (Jennifer Haupt, One True Thing column, Psychology Today, 9-25-12) “Maybe who we are isn't so much about what we do, but rather what we're capable of when we least expect it.”
Lunch with the FT: Ian McEwan (Caroline Daniel, Financial Times, 8-24-12)
Lunch with the FT: Robert Caro (Sarah Gordon, Financial Times, 1-4-13)
Paul Auster (Big Think, 11-5-09, interviewed by Austin Allen)
John Irving (Big Think). See also earlier interview, 11-4-09
Walter Mosley
Questions and Answers (an interview with Burkhardt about her biography of William Maxwell, the overdue story of the famous New Yorker editor's illustrious life and works: William Maxwell: A Literary Life
Katie Couric interviews J.K. Rowling (7-18-05)
Joyce Carol Oate speaking at Book Passage) s (FORA.tv video) about her novel The Gravedigger's Daughter, much of which is based on her grandmother, Blanche Morningstar. She speaks of setting as being almost like a character.(51 minutes)
Advice on Writing Dystopian Fiction, from Lauren DeStefano & Moira Young (Maryann Yin, GalleyCat, 2-21-12, interviews the authors of the Chemical Garden trilogy and of the Dustland trilogy.
TheBookShow (listen online to this Australian radio show's many interviews about fiction and other topics)
Finding John Irving (Interviewed by Dave for Powell's Books)
One on One: Insights Into the Writer's Life (Nancy Christie's interviews with various writers)
Writing Strong Women. Interviews with various novelists who create strong women characters (BlogTalkRadio)
Fiction Collaboration(Anita Bartholomew interviews Kathryn Lance and Jack McDevitt)
BOMB (artists in conversation)
The Significance of Place: An Interview with Barbara Henning (Rafael Otto interviews the poet-novelist for Not Enough Night)
Victoria Strauss Stacey O'Neale interviews the YA Fantasy author, who maintains the popular Writer Beware website (www.writerbeware.org).
A Conversation with Mary Higgins Clark (Claire E. White interviews her for Writers Write)
A Conversation with Nora Roberts (Claire E. White interviews the romance novelist for Writers Write)
Paris Review interviews with fiction writers (links to many wonderful interviews)
A Conversation with Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code (BookBrowse)
Videos of well-known authors (Writania.com) (for example, Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice on Writing Short Stories , crime fiction author George Weird on Developing a Voice or Style as a Writer, and author Joyce Carol Oates on how to develop realistic characters, using examples from her novel “The Gravedigger’s Daughter"
Audio archives, Key West Literary Seminar (KWLS recordings of presentations and readings by and conversations between some of the world's most influential writers)
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Revision as essential for writing a good novel:
"My pencils outlast their erasers." ~ Vladimir Nabokov
How Books Get Finished: Editor And Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to independent editor Alexandra Shelley and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discuss what it takes to get a book from first draft to "finished" book. (She Writes radio, 6-20-11). Excellent on process.
"Beginners," Edited: The Transformation of a Raymond Carver Classic (a fascinating feature on The New Yorker 12-24-07). The original draft of “Beginners” is compared with the final version of the story, retitled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” edited by Gordon Lish, and published in a collection of the same name by Alfred A. Knopf.

The Setup-Payoff Model of Storytelling (Bryan Keithley, Ascentive Blog 6-1-11). Essentially, as Chekhov said, " if a gun appears prominently in the first act of the play, it had better play some role by the final act, or else the audience will feel cheated." This has to do " with the literary real estate you give to an item, theme, character, etc."
Use setups and payoffs in your fiction (William Kowalski, The Writer, April 2007, PDF). How to use a storyline—say, a beloved farmhouse at risk of foreclosure — to create reader expectations and then satisfy them.
Setups and Payoffs (Steven Pressfield, 10-31-12). Beginning writers often fail to provide a payoff for a setup or a setup for a payoff. You need both, whether you're writing a novel, screenplay, short story, or op ed, says Pressfield.
Setup & Payoffs in Mean Girls (Scribe Meets World)
Setups, Payoffs, MacGuffins and Red Herrings (Anton Mueller's syllabus at UCLA, Spring 2010, PDF).


Sex scenes. Never mind the bad sex award – where's the good sex in fiction? , a response to the Bad Sex Awards (Literary Review)

A Short Defense of Literary Excess (Ben Masters, Opinionator, NY times, 10-15-12). Read that, and compare with Writing with Miles Davis (Aaron Gilbreath, Opinionator NY Times 10-6-12, on the beauties of brevity)

Short stories renaissance


Good Fit for Today’s Little Screens: Short Stories (Leslie Kaufman, Books, NY Times, 2-15-13) Story collections, an often underappreciated literary cousin of novels, are experiencing a resurgence, driven by a proliferation of digital options that offer not only new creative opportunities but exposure and revenue as well.
Short story renaissance serves readers, not writers (Stephen Proctor, Baltimore Sun, 9-19-99) There is a genuine explosion in short fiction readership, but the market is not the Good Old Days.
How to Write a Short Story That Works (free downloadable eBook by Michael Allen, via Scribd).
In Praise of the American Short Story (A.O. Scott, NY Times, 4-4-09)
Orbit Short Fiction. Hachette's new program, described by Publishers Weekly as Orbit Selling E-Book Short Stories (PW, 4-19-11)
Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story (video, via Anna Popova, Brain Pickings)
How To Write Short Stories by Emma Newman (guest post on The Creative Penn)
8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories (Charlie Jane Anders, io9, 3-12-08)
Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction (revised) by Damon Knight
Junot Díaz Hates Writing Short Stories (Sam Anderson, NY Times Magazine, 9-27-12)
• Flash fiction
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"Show, Don't Tell"
Seduction, Not Instruction (Part I) (Alex Keegan, Writers Write). And here's Part II.
Show, Don't Tell ( Shruti Chandra Gupta, 12-21-09, Literaryzone.com)
The “Show, Don’t Tell” Fallacy (Steven Fraccaro, The Recalcitrant Scrivener). An intelligent dissenting view.
Showing, Not Telling, in Fiction Writing (Jeff Colburn, FictionAddiction.Net, 10-31-12)
How to show, when to tell (Ray Ramey, Flogging the Quill)
Tell, Don't Show (Victoria Grossack, Fiction Fix)
Show, Don't Tell (Robert J. Sawyer, SFWriter.com, 1995)
How to Write Fiction That Feels Real (Creative Writing Now)
These are a few of many examples online. Google the phrase and you will find may other explanations and examples.

The Sideways Publishing Saga -- Part I: Rejection by Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, on Huffington Post, 1-21-12). Followed by Part II: Part II: Exultation (2-3-12) and Part III: Whiplash; Dismay! (2-8-12). Also, see the movie Sideways.

A Simple Way to Create Suspense (Lee Child, Opinionator, NY Times, 12-8-12). This principle applies whether you are writing fiction or narrative nonfiction.

The Stiletto Gang (blog in which mystery writers Evelyn David, Marilyn Meredith, Maggie Barbieri, Rachel Brady, Misa Ramirez, Susan McBride and guests bring mystery, humor, and high heels to the world)

Symbolism--what writers think:
Document: The Symbolism Survey (Sarah Funke Butler, Paris Review Daily, 12-5-11). "In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?" He got 75 responses. This story features comments from ack Kerouac, Ayn Rand, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer. Why did they respond to the questionnaire? Writes McAllister: “The conclusion I came to was that nobody had asked them. New Criticism was about the scholars and the text; writers were cut out of the equation. Scholars would talk about symbolism in writing, but no one had asked the writers.” In the comments section, Paul A. Rose, Jr. wrote: "...I have to agree with Saul Bellow, and further say that it seems that at some point, those who determine curriculum decided that there wasn’t enough value in teaching English literature for the love of the literature itself, but it must also serve some ‘social’ purpose for it to merit being a part of the education system, and so social commentary and symbolism are now sought with abandon, rather than just enjoying a damn good story."
• I learned of this article and survey from From Jack Kerouac to Ayn Rand: Iconic Writers on Symbolism, 1963 (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, 12-12-11)
The Search for Symbols, a Writer Warns, Misses All the Fun and Fact of the Story (Saul Bellow, New York Times, 2-15-59)

Take Five: Donald Maass on His New Book, “Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling” (interview on Writer Unboxed)

The 10 Highest-Paid Authors (Dirk Smillie, Forbes, 8-19-10). By Smillie's account the top 10 earning authors all write fiction: James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer,Stephen King, Ken Follett, Danielle Steel, Dean Koontz, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, J.K. Rowling--includes income from books, film rights, television, gaming deals, etc.

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction. Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, the Guardian asked several authors for their personal dos and don'ts. Read what Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, and AL Kennedy (part 1)and Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson (part 2) have to say.

This is NOT Feminine Tosh: Writing Meaningful Fiction. Listen to three novelists--Meg Waite Clayton, Carleen Brice, and Ellen Sussman--discuss writing and publishing fiction of substance (She Writes Radio)

3 Essential Elements Of A Book's First Page (Writer's Relief staff, Huff Post, 10-21-12)

Too Much Information: Why Writers Should Conceal Their Research (Drew Chial)

Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs, Updated (BestCollegesOnline.com, with blogs for aspiring and emerging writers, established writers, on improving your craft, on grammar and editing, getting published, fiction, genre fiction, and poetry).

TVTropes. A wiki/​catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction. "Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations."

The Very Rich Indie Writer. Eli James, on the Novelr blog (about reading, writing and publishing Internet fiction), lists monthly sales figures for Amanda Hocking and other Internet novelists, to show that you don't have to be traditionally published and don't have to be an A-list famous to sell a lot of e-books.

Victoria Strauss Stacey O'Neale interviews the YA Fantasy author, who maintains the popular Writer Beware website (www.writerbeware.org).

The Right to Write (Roxana Robinson, Opinion, NY Times, 6-28-14) Who owns the story, the person who lives it or the person who writes it?

Writer Races to Victory From Way Off the Pace. Novelist Jaimy Gordon was a long shot for the National Book Award for fiction, with her novel Lord of Misrule, which won. "To write a novel that was even remotely commercial...she had to get out of Providence, where even to think of such a thing was considered a sell out..." Janet Maslin describes the novel as "so assured, exotic and uncategorizable, with such an unlikely provenance, that it arrives as an incontrovertible winner, a bona fide bolt from the blue."

Writer Unboxed (a collaborative site, full of advice and views on the writing of genre fiction)

Writing Advice Database (excellent brief articles by former star agent Nathan Bransford on various aspects of how to write fiction)

Writing the Breakout Novel (Ingrid Sundberg, "prepublished" YA author, reporting on agent Sarah Davies' recipes for success with fiction)

Writing Tips (Kathryn Lance)

Writing Strong Women. Various interviews with novelists who create strong women characters (BlogTalkRadio)

Paris Review Interviews with Fiction Writers


In addition to the interviews, you can see a page of each author's manuscript
Paris Review "Writers at Work" and "The Art of Fiction" interviews (1950s through now (online and these are wonderful! Click on "view a manuscript page"near top of interview and see a sample from an edited manuscript):
Margaret Atwood, The Art of Fiction No. 121 (Interviewed by Mary Morris)
James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction No. 78 (interviewed by Jordan Elgrably)
Russell Banks, The Art of Fiction No. 152 (interviewed by Robert Faggen)
Louis Begley (interviewed by James Atlas)
T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Art of Fiction No. 161 (interviewed by Elizabeth E. Adams)
Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203 (interviewed by Sam Weller, Paris Review). See also Stephen Andrew Hiltner's essay Fact-checking Ray Bradbury (Paris Review Daily, 6-6-2012).
Anthony Burgess (The Art of Fiction No. 48) interviewed by John Cullinan
Guillermo Cabrera Infante, The Art of Fiction No. 75 (Interviewed by Alfred Mac Adam)
Erskine Caldwell, The Art of Fiction No. 62 (interviewed by Elizabeth Pell Broadwell, Ronald Wesley Hoag)
Italo Calvino (interviewed by William Weaver, Damien Pettigrew)
Truman Capote, The Art of Fiction No. 17 (interviewed by Pati Hill)
John Cheever, The Art of Fiction No. 62 (interviewed by Annette Grant)
Malcolm Cowley, The Art of Fiction No. 70 (interviewed by John McCall)
Joan Didion, The Art of Nonfiction No. 1
E. L. Doctorow, The Art of Fiction No. 94 (interviewed by George Plimpton)
Margaret Drabble, The Art of Fiction No. 70 (interviewed by Barbara Milton)
Lawrence Durrell, The Art of Fiction No. 23 (Interviewed by Gene Andrewski & Julian Mitchell)
Ilya Ehrenburg, The Art of Fiction No. 26 (interviewed by Olga Carlisle)
James Ellroy (interviewed by Nathaniel Rich)
William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12 (interviewed by Jean Stein)
E. M. Forster, The Art of Fiction No. 1 (interviewed by P. N. Furbank & F. J. H. Haskell)
Paula Fox (interviewed by Oliver Broudy)
Jonathan Franzen, The Art of Fiction No. 207 (interviewed by Stephen J. Burn)
William Gass, The Art of Fiction No. 65 (interviewed by Thomas LeClair)
Henry Green, The Art of Fiction No. 22 (interviewed by Terry Southern!)
Graham Greene (interviewed by Simon Raven and Martin Shuttleworth)
Shirley Hazzard (interviewed by J.D. McClatchy)
Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21 (interviewed by George Plimpton). See also Hemingway's Hamburger by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (9-16-13)
P. D. James, The Art of Fiction No. 141 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy)
Ha Jin, The Art of Fiction No. 202 (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Milan Kundera, The Art of Fiction No. 81 (interviewed by Christian Salmon)
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Art of Fiction No. 221 (interviewed by John Wray)
Jonathan Lethem, The Art of Fiction No. 177 (interviewed by Lori Stein)
Primo Levi, The Art of Fiction No. 140 (Interviewed by Gabriel Motola)
Norman Mailer, The Art of Fiction No. 193 (interviewed by Andrew O'Hagan)
Bernard Malamud (The Art of Fiction No. 52, interviewed by Daniel Stern)
Javier Marias (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Peter Matthiessen, The Art of Fiction No. 157 (interviewed by Howard Norman)
William Maxwell, The Art of Fiction No. 71 (interviewed by John Seabrook)
Mary McCarthy, The Art of Fiction No. 27 (interviewed by Elisabeth Sifton)
Thomas McGuane, The Art of Fiction No. 89 (interviewed by Sinda Gregory, Larry McCaffery)
Toni Morrison, The Art of Fiction No. 134 (interviewed by Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Elissa Schappell)
Alice Munro, The Art of Fiction No. 137 (interviewed by Jeanne McCulloch, Mona Simpson). Munro: "“I only seem to get a grasp on what I want to write about with the greatest difficulty. And barely.”
Vladimir Nabokov, The Art of Fiction No. 40 (interviewed by Herbert Gold)
Edna O'Brien, The Art of Fiction No. 82 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy)
Patrick O'Brian, The Art of Fiction No. 142 (interviewed by Stephen Becker)
V. S. Naipaul, The Art of Fiction No. 154 (interviewed by Jonathan Rosen, Tarun Tejpal)
Kenzaburo Oe (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Grace Paley, The Art of Fiction No. 131 (interviewed by Jonathan Dee, Barbara Jones, Larissa MacFarquhar)
V. S. Pritchett, The Art of Fiction No. 122 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy, Anthony Weller)
Irwin Shaw, The Art of Fiction No. 4 (interviewed by George Plimpton and John Phillips)
Robert Penn Warren, The Art of Fiction No. 18 (interviewed by Eugene Walter and Ralph Ellison)
James Salter (interviewed by Edward Hirsch)
Jorge Semprún (interviewed by Lila Azam Zanganeh)
Georges Simenon, The Art of Fiction No. 9 (interviewed by Carvel Collins)
Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Art of Fiction No. 42 (interviewed by Harold Flender)
Josef Skvorecky, The Art of Fiction No. 112 (interviewed by John Glusman)
Wallace Stegner, The Art of Fiction No. 118 (interviewed by James R. Hepworth)
William Styron, The Art of Fiction No. 5 (interviewed by Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton, 1958) plus a second interview 40 years later: William Styron, The Art of Fiction No. 156, plus a Letter to an Editor (1953)
John Updike (interviewed by Charles Thomas Samuels). See also The Man Who Made Off With John Updike’s Trash (Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic, 8-28-14)
Gore Vidal (interviewed by Gerald Clarke)
Kurt Vonnegut (interviewed by David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, and Richard Rhodes)
Elie Wiesel (interviewed by John S. Friedman)
P.G. Wodehouse (interviewed by Gerald Clarke)
Tobias Wolff (interviewed by Jack Livings)
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Paris Review Interviews with Fiction Writers


In addition to the interviews, you can see a page of each author's manuscript
Paris Review "Writers at Work" and "The Art of Fiction" interviews (1950s through now (online and these are wonderful! Click on "view a manuscript page"near top of interview and see a sample from an edited manuscript):
Margaret Atwood, The Art of Fiction No. 121 (Interviewed by Mary Morris)
James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction No. 78 (interviewed by Jordan Elgrably)
Russell Banks, The Art of Fiction No. 152 (interviewed by Robert Faggen)
Ann Beattie, The Art of Fiction No. 209 (interviewed by Christopher Cox, Fall 2011). "Because I don’t work with an outline, writing a story is like crossing a stream, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock."
Louis Begley (interviewed by James Atlas)
T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Art of Fiction No. 161 (interviewed by Elizabeth E. Adams)
Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203 (interviewed by Sam Weller, Paris Review). See also Stephen Andrew Hiltner's essay Fact-checking Ray Bradbury (Paris Review Daily, 6-6-2012).
Anthony Burgess (The Art of Fiction No. 48) interviewed by John Cullinan
Guillermo Cabrera Infante, The Art of Fiction No. 75 (Interviewed by Alfred Mac Adam)
Erskine Caldwell, The Art of Fiction No. 62 (interviewed by Elizabeth Pell Broadwell, Ronald Wesley Hoag)
Italo Calvino (interviewed by William Weaver, Damien Pettigrew)
Truman Capote, The Art of Fiction No. 17 (interviewed by Pati Hill)
John Cheever, The Art of Fiction No. 62 (interviewed by Annette Grant)
Malcolm Cowley, The Art of Fiction No. 70 (interviewed by John McCall)
Don DeLillo, The Art of Fiction No. 135 (interviewed by Adam Begley)
Joan Didion, The Art of Nonfiction No. 1
E. L. Doctorow, The Art of Fiction No. 94 (interviewed by George Plimpton)
Margaret Drabble, The Art of Fiction No. 70 (interviewed by Barbara Milton)
Lawrence Durrell, The Art of Fiction No. 23 (Interviewed by Gene Andrewski & Julian Mitchell)
Ilya Ehrenburg, The Art of Fiction No. 26 (interviewed by Olga Carlisle)
Bret Easton Ellis, The Art of Fiction No. 216 (interviewed by Jon-Jon Goulian)
James Ellroy (interviewed by Nathaniel Rich)
William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12 (interviewed by Jean Stein)
E. M. Forster, The Art of Fiction No. 1 (interviewed by P. N. Furbank & F. J. H. Haskell)
Paula Fox (interviewed by Oliver Broudy)
Jonathan Franzen, The Art of Fiction No. 207 (interviewed by Stephen J. Burn)
William Gass, The Art of Fiction No. 65 (interviewed by Thomas LeClair)
Henry Green, The Art of Fiction No. 22 (interviewed by Terry Southern!)
Graham Greene (interviewed by Simon Raven and Martin Shuttleworth)
Shirley Hazzard (interviewed by J.D. McClatchy)
Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21
P. D. James, The Art of Fiction No. 141 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy)
Ha Jin, The Art of Fiction No. 202 (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Milan Kundera, The Art of Fiction No. 81 (interviewed by Christian Salmon)
Jonathan Lethem, The Art of Fiction No. 177 (interviewed by Lori Stein)
Primo Levi, The Art of Fiction No. 140 (Interviewed by Gabriel Motola)
Norman Mailer, The Art of Fiction No. 193 (interviewed by Andrew O'Hagan)
Bernard Malamud (The Art of Fiction No. 52, interviewed by Daniel Stern)
Javier Marias (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Peter Matthiessen, The Art of Fiction No. 157 (interviewed by Howard Norman)
William Maxwell, The Art of Fiction No. 71 (interviewed by John Seabrook)
Mary McCarthy, The Art of Fiction No. 27 (interviewed by Elisabeth Sifton)
Thomas McGuane, The Art of Fiction No. 89 (interviewed by Sinda Gregory, Larry McCaffery)
Toni Morrison, The Art of Fiction No. 134 (interviewed by Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Elissa Schappell)
Alice Munro, The Art of Fiction No. 137 (interviewed by Jeanne McCulloch, Mona Simpson). Munro: "“I only seem to get a grasp on what I want to write about with the greatest difficulty. And barely.”
Vladimir Nabokov, The Art of Fiction No. 40 (interviewed by Herbert Gold)
Edna O'Brien, The Art of Fiction No. 82 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy)
Patrick O'Brian, The Art of Fiction No. 142 (interviewed by Stephen Becker)
V. S. Naipaul, The Art of Fiction No. 154 (interviewed by Jonathan Rosen, Tarun Tejpal)
Kenzaburo Oe (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Grace Paley, The Art of Fiction No. 131 (interviewed by Jonathan Dee, Barbara Jones, Larissa MacFarquhar)
Richard Price, The Art of Fiction No. 144 (interviewed by James Linville)
V. S. Pritchett, The Art of Fiction No. 122 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy, Anthony Weller)
Irwin Shaw, The Art of Fiction No. 4 (interviewed by George Plimpton and John Phillips)
Robert Penn Warren, The Art of Fiction No. 18 (interviewed by Eugene Walter and Ralph Ellison)
James Salter (interviewed by Edward Hirsch)
Jorge Semprún (interviewed by Lila Azam Zanganeh)
Georges Simenon, The Art of Fiction No. 9 (interviewed by Carvel Collins)
Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Art of Fiction No. 42 (interviewed by Harold Flender)
Josef Skvorecky, The Art of Fiction No. 112 (interviewed by John Glusman)
Wallace Stegner, The Art of Fiction No. 118 (interviewed by James R. Hepworth)
William Styron, The Art of Fiction No. 5 (interviewed by Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton, 1958) plus a second interview 40 years later: William Styron, The Art of Fiction No. 156, plus a Letter to an Editor (1953)
William Trevor, The Art of Fiction No. 108 (interviewed by Mira Stout)
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Art of Fiction No. 120 (interviewed by Susannah Hunnewell, Ricardo Augusto Setti)
Gore Vidal (interviewed by Gerald Clarke)
Kurt Vonnegut (interviewed by David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, and Richard Rhodes)
Elie Wiesel (interviewed by John S. Friedman)
P.G. Wodehouse (interviewed by Gerald Clarke)
Tobias Wolff (interviewed by Jack Livings)
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“A story was a form of telepathy. By means of inking symbols onto a page, she was able to send thoughts and feelings from her mind to her reader's. It was a magical process, so commonplace that no one stopped to wonder at it.”~― Ian McEwan, Atonement
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Books for Fiction Writers and Editors

How 'Gatsby' Went From A Moldering Flop To A Great American Novel (Terry Gross, Fresh Air, interviews Maureen Corrigan, 9-8-14, about her book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures . Her earlier book: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books
Afterwords: Novelists on Their Novels by Thomas McCormack (Norman Mailer, Reynolds Price, Mary Renault, Mark Harris, Louis Auchincloss, John Fowles, Truman Capote, Anthony Burgess, William Gass, Wright Morris, Ross Macdonald, and others). McCormack, with whom I worked early in both our careers, was a legendary fiction editor who built St. Martin's Press into a major American publishing house.
The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby. (“Truby attempts to inform the entire story, addressing plot, character, tone, symbolism, and dialog. The key here is to grow a script organically rather than force the story into preexisting mechanics . . . Highly recommended.” —Library Journal
The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell (emphasizes literary fiction, with many examples from The Great Gatsby
The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis In The Creative Interpretation Of Human Motives by Lajos Egri
The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes by Joan Silber
The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera
Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster. A classic, lively "witty and opinionated" discussion (based on lectures given at Cambridge)of the fiction of Austen, Dickens, Fielding, Lawrence, Woolf, and others, noted especially for his discussion of "round" and "flat" characters.
Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How To Write The Bad Guys Of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell (drama needs conflict, which may require bad guys; Morrell explains the subtle but key differences between unlikeable protagonists, anti-heroes, dark heroes, and bad boys)
Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction by Charles Baxter
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress
Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card
Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 26th edition!)
Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction (revised) by Damon Knight
The Dreaded Synopsis by romance writer Elizabeth Sinclair
The Fiction Editor, The Novel, and the Novelist by Thomas McCormack
The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass
The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman
From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler (ed. Janet Burroway)
Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestsellers by James W. Hall (who, with some of his students, deconstructs ("reverse engineers") 12 major bestsellers to identify their common elements)
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton
How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them by Sol Stein
How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey (especially the chapter on dialogue)
I Have This Nifty Idea: ...Now What Do I Do with It? by Jack Resnick. Outlines for science fiction and fantasy novels which real authors (new and old) used to sell their books to major publishing companies. By the same author:
Putting It Together: Turning Sow's Ear Drafts Into Silk Purse Stories by Jack Resnick, who takes readers through the various drafts of his own stories, showing questions readers asked who critiqued the drafts
Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway
The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing, ed. Alice LaPlante (how writers create -- for serious writing students and teachers)
Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern (for advanced writing students -- excellent short-essay glossary, and useful material on "shapes," storytelling archetypes, such as The Journey and The Gathering)
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall (a 16-step guide to structuring and plotting a novel, placing action and reaction scenes, plots and subsidiary plots--for those who work well with templates). He has a helpful Marshall Plan website. The book is now also available as software (co-authored with Martha Jewett).
Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway, and Other Greats by Adam Sexton
Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form by Madison Smartt Bell
Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood
No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells< by Alice Orr (more useful than its gimmicky title suggests)
Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (Rachel Randall, Writer's Digest)
101 Best Beginnings Every Written: A Romp Through Literary Openings For Writers And Readers and 101 Best Scenes Ever Written by Barnaby Conrad
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner (a classic on the writing life -- a good gift for an aspiring novelist)
••••On Writing by Stephen King (autobiography plus advice, stressing character and situation over plot, and above all saying to write and read a lot)
The Passionate, Accurate Story: Making Your Heart's Truth Into Literature by Carol Bly (encouraging writers to move beyond "technically competent stories to ones that are morally, politically, and emotionally deep")
Plot and Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish by James Scott Bell. (His LOCK theory: to have a gripping plot you must have a lead, who must have an objective; there must be confrontation and the ending must have "knockout power."_
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (2nd edition) by Patricia Highsmith
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson
Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative by Peter Brooks
Rejection, Romance, and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer by Laura Resnick (Kindle, the dark side of the professional writing game--everything that can go wrong).
Revising fiction: A handbook for writers by David Madden (185 practical techniques for improving your story or novel -- using archival drafts by great writers to show how essential revision is to the best writing)
Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction) by James Scott Bell
••••Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print (2nd ed.) by Renni Browne and Dave King. Two professional editors share their wisdom and good and bad examples of important techniques: show and tell, characterization and exposition, point of view, the mechanics and sound (characters' voice) of dialogue, interior monologue, rhythm, variations in paragraph length, repetition, proportion, sophistication, and voice. Several people have recommended this as a primer on fiction writing.
Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, essays by Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose
So, Is It Done? Navigating the Revision Process, hosted by Janet Burroway (DVD)
Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin
••• Stein on Writing by Sol Stein (subtitle: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies), highly recommended by several of my writer friends
Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James, master of the genre
Techniques for the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain
Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness by Leon Z. Surmelian (why certain techniques work and where they are most useful for your fiction writing--with chapters on scene, summary and description, third person, first person, plot and plotting, character, stream of thought and interior monologue,, traits of narrative prose and narrative style).
The 3rd Act: Writing a Great Ending to Your Screenplay by Drew Yanno (the ending may be the most important part)
This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Moseley (for novices)
20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B Tobias
Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan
••••Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (7th ed.) by Janet Burroway (another classic)
Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass (how to create "a powerful sense of time and place, larger-than-life characters, a high degree of tension, good subplots, and universal themes," elements needed to take a novel to the bestseller list). See also the novelist-turned-agent's The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler, illustrations by Michele Montez (a 'classic' for screenwriters, writers, and novelists)
Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Al Zuckerman (Kindle, literary agent looks at characterizations, plot lines, points of view, and other essential features of five major novels)
Writing Romance Fiction for Love and Money by Helene Schellenberg Barnhart
Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling by agent Donald Maass (making the most of both literary and commercial fiction, crossing over genres.

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Organizations for Fiction Writers and Fans

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)
American Crime Writers League (ACWL), crime fiction and true crime
Asian American Writers' Workshop (holds a short story contest)
Authors Guild, a nonprofit American organization of and for published authors, a strong advocate for authors' rights. Among benefits: Sitebuilder (a template for creating your own website), legal services, BackinPrint.com, listing in the directory of member websites .
The Center for Fiction (NYC, The Mercantile Library)
Chick Lit Writers of the World (a special-interest online chapter of Romance Writers of America -- all sub-genres from spicy to inspirational to young adult to paranormal)
Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group (CSFW)
Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP's) links to resources for writers
Crime Fiction Organizations & Conventions (Overbooked's list, for writers, editors, and fans)
Crime Writers' Association (CWA), UK
Crime Thru Time (History mystery discussion list, Yahoo! discussing history, culture, authors and mysteries)
Crime Writers of Canada
Dear Author(bloggers/​readers/​reviewers who love genre fiction, especially as e-books)
Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) (to facilitate and promote the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media)
Erotica Readers & Writers Association (site contains material intended for adults)
Fiction Forum (where fiction lovers come to play)
Historical Novel Society (a community for authors, readers, agents, and publishers)
Historical Romance Club
Historical Writers' Association (British organization for writers of historical fiction and nonfiction, founded by members of the Crime Writers' Association)
Horror Writers Association (HWA)
International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW) (a professional organization for authors of books based on TV shows, movies, and games)
International Thriller Writers (ITW). Read ITW's history
Malice Domestic (May convention saluting the traditional, especially "cozy," mystery, where fans buy books from enthusiastic, often new, writers) and The Usual Suspects (the Malice Domestic newsletter); Malice Domestic awards.
Mayhem in the Midlands (May crime fiction conference sponsored by Omaha Public Library)
Murder Must Advertise (free e-mail discussion list about how to promote new mysteries)
Mystery Writers' Forum (threaded bulletin board)
Mystery Writers of America (MWA)
Novelists, Inc, the only writers organization devoted exclusively to the needs of multi-published novelists -- of all genres. "The average Ninc member has sixteen published novels." Features blog entries, searchable by category.
PEN American Center. Poets, Essays, & Novelists -- a global literary community, providing particular support in countries where literature is not so free. A bit of a snoot factor--for example, single tickets to an award event in 2014 were $1,250 or you could buy a table for $12,500 and up).
Poets & Writers(nonprofit organization for poets and fiction writers, site with useful searchable database, among other features)
Romance Writers of America (RWA)
Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
SFF Net and SFF Net People Pages
Sisters in Crime ("SinC into a good mystery"). Check out local chapters.
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI)
Western Writers of America (WWA) (freelance writers of Western fiction and nonfiction).
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"My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel - it is, above all, to make you see. That - and no more, and it is everything."
~ Joseph Conrad, preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus

"I've never thought about myself in terms of a career. ... I don't have a career, I have a typewriter."
~ Don DeLillo

"When I became an adult I put away childish things, including the fear of
seeming childish and the desire to be very grown-up." ~ C. S. Lewis