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The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great Paperback – Abridged, Audiobook, Box set

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (26 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158297506X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582975061
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 287,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'inject your writing with life and passion' --Writer's Forum

About the Author

Donald Maass is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, which he founded in 1980. He represents more than 100 fiction writers and sells more than 100 novels per year to top publishers in America and overseas.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By jane guz on 18 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read a quite a few books on writing and some of them were good and insightful. I was warned that this was probably not for beginners and I'd agree. There is so much to chew on that it is impossible to digest all at once.
I thought I knew a fair bit about character and conflict but turning points and micro tension were new concepts to me. I recognised them instantly from the examples - a bit of a 'duh' moment for me. However it's the systemised way that you can go through your own novel, editing each different aspect - that's very useful.
Endings and beginnings...I knew they were important but now I'll be taking a fresh look at those as well (not just the first and last page).
The exercises I have yet to try - you'd think I would be excited and I am in a way...except I know it will also be hard work.
There are a lot of exercises.
The difficulty is choosing which ones to do first. I know the more effort I put in, the better my book will be.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Soft Machine Operator TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book won't make you write a bestseller, but it might help. The author shows through example how to create things that will give your stories an extra dimension, such as characters with histories, characters with goals and aims. A simple few lines can transform bland characters into characters that will grab the reader's interest.
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By Randal on 7 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Donald Maass, once of New York's leading literary agents, is the man when it comes to guiding authors through the book jungle. He gets to the point and makes his advice count.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By F. F. Ross on 26 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This series of books is written by a literary agent of many years experience. He advises how to avoid the commonest mistakes made by both debut and established writers. Studying these books will inspire you to raise your game. Inspirational.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 73 reviews
60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Advanced Techniques for Revising Fiction Drafts 21 Dec. 2009
By C. J. Singh - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reviewed by C.J.Singh

"THE FIRE IN FICTION--Passion, Purpose and Techniques" is a sophisticated workbook for revising fiction drafts. The reviewer who wrote that it's "not as in-depth" as the author's earlier workbook is mistaken. On the contrary, "The Fire in Fiction" presents advanced exercises, aptly titled "Practical Tools," in each chapter that deepen and build on the earlier workbook's foundational exercises.

Having recently studied the three fiction-craft books by Maass,
in the order they were published --
Writing the Breakout Novel;
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook;
The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques
-- I have to disagree with the same reviewer's odd classification, "If you think of the original Breakout as a bachelor's degree in fiction writing, the Workbook is a PhD. However, The Fire in Fiction is more like a master's degree." No.

The first chapter in "The Fire in Fiction" suggests exercises such as: "Is your protagonist an ordinary person? Find in him any kind of strength. Work out a way for that strength to be demonstrated within your protagonist's first five pages. Is your protagonist a hero--that is, someone who is already strong? Find in him something conflicted, fallible, humbling, or human. Work out a way for that flaw to be demonstrated within your protagonist's first five pages. Revise your character's introduction to your readers. Be sure to soften the flaw with self-awareness or self-deprecating humor." Examples cited include excerpts from novels by Chuck Palahuniak's "Choke" (2001); Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"(2006); Charles Frazier's "Thirteen Moons (2006); and Ethan Canin's "America America" (2008).

The second chapter, "Characters Who Matter," suggests exercises such as: "Find five ways and times at which your antagonist will directly engage your protagonist. Create four actions that will make your antagonist warm and sympathetic." Illustrations include excerpts from Russell Banks's "The Reserve" (2008) and Charles Baxter's "The Soul Thief" (2008). Some of the most instructive exercises are in Chapter 8, "Tension All the Time": exercises on creating tension on every page -- in dialogue, action, exposition.

Throughout, Maass presents excerpts from genre fiction like Jim Butcher's "White Night" (2007) as well as stellar literary novels like Nick Hornby's "How to be Good" (2001), Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" (2004), E.L. Doctorow's "The March" (2005), Gary Shteyngart's "Absurdistan" (2006), Christopher Buckley's "Boomsday" (2007), and Don DeLillo's "Falling Man" (2008).

Five shining stars for Donald Maass's "Fire in Fiction." -- C J Singh
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Resource for Revision 15 Dec. 2009
By Angry Bald Guy - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As good as his "Writing a Breakout Novel." Very readable, with many insightful tips. This book has many ideas and anecdotes that helped me with revision. What Donald offers here that isn't in other books is a set of techniques to amplify characters and make the story more theirs, while enhancing emotional connections with reader.

Personally, I got the most mileage out of Chapter 6: Making the Impossible Real, which explores how to draw readers into parts of the novel that are utter and complete make-believe with exercises that will help you overcome a reader's suspension of disbelief on things like villains, monsters, and the story world.

These tool can also be used when planning a novel, but I think them most useful after that 1st draft is on paper.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Bravo 27 Jan. 2010
By Taka - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Because Donald Maass's earlier book, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL was so good, I was afraid of being let down by his newest and didn't even touch it for a while when it arrived in mail.

What is he going to say that could be better? Is this going to be just a rehash of the old material in his earlier book?

Doubts swirled, but I finally convinced myself to read it.

What a ride.

He goes well above and beyond my highest expectations. Compared to his earlier book, the book is more tightly organized and focused, and comes with tons of practical tools to energize your manuscript with - something his earlier book didn't have. He really goes in depth with the most important topics of writing fiction, and Chapter 8 on micro-tension alone is worth the price of the entire book in my opinion.

It is extremely difficult to determine the cause from effects. What makes a good story? That is the million-dollar question I have been asking myself ever since I began writing seriously. I've read a fair number of books on writing but none of them seemed to do it for me. I groped further and read book after book, classic after classic in search of the holy grail of storytelling. But I couldn't figure it out. When I read Murakami, for example, I would lose myself in his world as if by magic and when I came back out of it, I could only say, "What the hell happened?"

And it looks like Mr. Maass could be the Galahad I have been looking for as he has a theory on the secret workings of this magic of good fiction. If not, at least he gives us a key to unlocking the mystery of The Good Story.

What's this key, this Holy Grail of Storytelling? That, my friends, you must find for yourself between the covers of this book.

A must read for any serious fiction writer.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Very Basic Advice - Good For New Writers Only 6 Sept. 2011
By Julia M Nolan - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Fire in Fiction is a pretty mediocre book, at best. It purports to teach the writer how to write memorable stories that are really noteworthy, but never gives any advice beyond the mundane. Now I'm not saying that this is a horrible book. If you're still at the point of not realizing that characters need to be more than cardboard cut outs to be interesting, and still don't quite get "show not tell", it could be a genuinely helpful book. And unlike a great many books in writing, it takes some really good examples from literature and uses them as "how tos".

The problem is that the book never really describes beyond the mundane as to why a scene works. Maaas is very good at finding quality scenes, but he never really pushes the explanation as to why they work to the extent that an intermediate level writer would need to get anything out of them.

There's a bit of decent advice, but I suspect that most advanced writers already know it. This advice includes, "Conflict is story. We hardly need to discuss that any further. Every writer who gets beyond the beginner stage knows it." This is true, and if Maass further pushed the idea of conflict, his advice might be worthwhile. But the explanation never seems to go much farther than that, making the advice good, as he said, for beginners. In addition, he offers "Dialogue in novels is, thank goodness, unnatural." Which is true, but again, is trite. Most decent writers already know this and don't need to be told it. Again, if he pushed this further, it might be interesting. But he doesn't, so the advice isn't overly helpful.

So while I think that this would be a great read for a beginning author who just doesn't get things like, "you can develop characters while advancing plot" and "please do not make dialogue overly natural", it's not really something that an already solid writer could use to push their craft to the next level, which was a bit of a let down.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Some Nuggets of Good, But Overall a Drag 20 Jan. 2011
By J. Tucker - Published on
Format: Paperback
It's ironic that a book with this title chilled my interest so quickly. Yes, there will be some useful information in here for you, but probably nothing you won't find in some other book or article. This book quickly lost me because he kept throwing in so many darn passages from literary works. Granted, a book of this type needs some examples, but this soon felt like I was sitting in some dry lecture on literary analysis again. It got to the point where I would think, "Crap--another passage!" and soon started just skimming them...then skipping them altogether. It was annoying and a turn-off. It almost felt like he just needed more pages to the book and decided to cite and discuss an overload of novels as filler.

This book was a BIG disappointment. I wouldn't even bother buying a used copy of it. If you are shopping for books for novel writers, check out Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke.
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