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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A writing masterclass
I must have read a dozen books on writing and the ones by Donald Maass stand out as being the most inspirational and influential. The author is a literary agent in the US and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what sells and why. It's a unique standpoint, as others in the trade seem unable to define why some novels `break out' and others don't. By `breakout', he...
Published on 3 Feb. 2013 by fluffy

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No Maass
"Common and obvious symbols are lame: dove, eagle, rose, sunrise, winter, lightning. Others are so obtuse that they are eternal fodder for term papers: albatross, white whale, the Valley of Ashes."

If you don't see anything wrong with that statement and if you prefer, say, the brash oomph of the Breakfast at Tiffany's movie to the slippery nuance and...
Published 8 months ago by D. Morris


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A writing masterclass, 3 Feb. 2013
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I must have read a dozen books on writing and the ones by Donald Maass stand out as being the most inspirational and influential. The author is a literary agent in the US and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what sells and why. It's a unique standpoint, as others in the trade seem unable to define why some novels `break out' and others don't. By `breakout', he means novels by unknown or small-time authors that hit the bestseller lists based largely on word-of-mouth. He has a passion for dissecting the appeal of recent breakout bestsellers and how the rest of us can bring out similar qualities in our own writing.

Because he's American, it's based on his experience of the US market but what resonates with fiction readers in the US often follows for the UK. And some of his examples of good writing are from UK authors such as Chris Cleve. If it sounds like the book is just about producing commercial fiction, it's not, it's about making your writing as good as it can be whatever your genre, partly through emotional resonance, which should be relevant to even the most literary of writers. Each chapter finishes with an extensive list of questions and prompts to challenge you to improve your own writing.

If you haven't read any of his books, I'd suggest starting with Writing the Breakout Novel, followed by the Breakout Novel Workbook. After that, the law of diminishing returns kicks in but I still found this one very useful to keep the inspiration going. I was going to read The Fire in Fiction but it wasn't available on Kindle so I went for this one instead. As this is his most recent book, it covers more recent examples of breakout novels.

Don't read this book if you're looking for a conventional how-to-write guide. But if you have an open mind and are prepared to be challenged to take your writing to the next level, you might want to read everything of his you can get your hands on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superior fiction guide for intermediate and advanced writers, 25 April 2014
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This review is from: Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction (Paperback)
This volume is a follow-on to Maas's previous works on the requirements of modern fiction. Well written, highly specific, and filled with examples from currently successful authors, this is a useful addition to any writer's 'how-to' library.

Maas runs a successful literary agency. He is admittedly sick to death of wading through dull, derivative and badly written manuscripts. The text of each of his chapters are highly useful and will benefit writers of varying experience levels. The thrust of his argument is that modern writers need to break out of the conventions of the fiction of the last twenty years. He feels that these conventions have become straitjackets, particularly for aspiring novelists who think they have to follow rules to be published. In my view, he is entirely correct.

The difficulty comes at the end of each chapter. Maas posits '21st Century Tools' to help writers overcome the problems he sees. These tools are good at making the writer think about what he/she is writing, but they are difficult to actually make use of when writing a novel. Example: 'Find a quiet, emotional moment. Is it artfully written, delicate, subtle, nuanced, and precise? Congrats. Make it enormous: a tidal wave, an attack, a life-altering earthquake.' Easy to see what he wants you to consider, but if you do what he says, your writing will no longer be quiet, nuanced, subtle or anything else you intended.

Maas makes several good points. In all of his guidelines he emphasizes the need for tension, not just the huge moments when the detective confronts the killer, but throughout the writing. In the past there was a lot of emphasis on detailed description, evocative setting, deep psychological characterization. Maas contends, correctly, that all of these slow the novel's pace unacceptably, and are not actually read by most readers, but are instead skimmed over. If they are not going to read it, why write it?

He also encourages writers to take on bigger themes, not to be put off by the idea that you might sound 'preachy' or overly literary. If you have an issue that really gets you going, put it in your story.

I think this book might be a bit too advanced for many beginning writers, but for everyone else, it's worthwhile.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and Insightful, 29 May 2015
I loved this book. Full of insightful ideas about how to make your book connect with people on a deeper level, and some useful tools to apply to your own work. It not only will make my own novel better but has made me understand why so many perfectly good books fail to make me really care what happens.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 16 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction (Paperback)
A+ Many thanks
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No Maass, 1 Dec. 2014
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D. Morris "@MirabilisDave" (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction (Paperback)
"Common and obvious symbols are lame: dove, eagle, rose, sunrise, winter, lightning. Others are so obtuse that they are eternal fodder for term papers: albatross, white whale, the Valley of Ashes."

If you don't see anything wrong with that statement and if you prefer, say, the brash oomph of the Breakfast at Tiffany's movie to the slippery nuance and ambiguities of the novel, then this is the book for you.
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