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The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction Paperback – 28 Oct 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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  • 4 A.M. Breakthrough: Unconventional Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction
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  • What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: F&W; 1 edition (28 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582973512
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582973517
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 2.1 x 14 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 352,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Brian Kiteley is the director of the creative writing programme at a leading US university. A frequent award winner, he is the author of many successful novels.


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Format: Paperback
As the introduction to this book says: 'This book is a collection of fiction exercise instructions whose main goal is to teach writers how to let their fiction find itself...This book works backwards-offering instruction through the activity of writing the exercises'.

So, no irritating lectures on 'how to do it' followed by dull exercises designed to reinforce whatever you have just learnt - the exercises ARE the teacher. No name-dropping of authors you haven't heard of (hooray!) and no self-promotion stuff of 'here is an example from my latest novel'

Just exercises. Just writing. Just inspiration.

What level is it aimed at? Well, I think beginners and more experienced writers should each be able to get something from this book. While I found some exercises just too challenging for me even to contemplate at the moment (!), there were plenty of others that seemed approachable. And as most of the exercises are so adaptable, they can be attempted time and time again, with a different outcome each time.

The chapters include exercises on Images, Point of View, Women and Men, Children and Childhood, Conversation, Thought and Emotion, Time, History, Description, Sentences, Work, Humour, Travel, and more, though these 'themes' seem less intrusive than in other writing books. Sure, the Point of View exercises help a writer to learn about point of view, but they seem to also do much more. It's a difficult one to explain, but with each of these exercises I'm learning something about my writing, almost when I'm not looking;I have one of those 'ah!' moments when things start to become clear. I guess it's the difference between someone telling you how to drive a car and actually getting in a car and having a go yourself!
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Format: Paperback
If all you have on the shelf is space for one, just one, volume to excercise your fiction, make it this one. Let me tell you why:

1. The excercises are, indeed, uncommon. Even the ones that look like I've heard them before when I first start reading them are, upon further examination, given a new spin. Though this may make them look a bit daunting at first, it also makes them exciting and challenging and worth your money.

2. There are so many of them; just over one hundred and fifty. Do one every few days for a year and you might just find you've laid the groundwork for about ten short story collections (the average collection holds about fifteen).

3. While the author is by no means hyper-critical, he knows how to jolt you into action by tingling your pride. A learned, patient but no-nonsense teacher, he will not shy away from calling you a coward should you chicken out of doing your excercises properly.

4. The commentaries to the excercises often provide little snippets of literary history and criticism that inspire as much as they inform. Knowing that James Joyce almost stopped writing "Ulysses" when he parted from his daily writing buddy made me go awww (because it's a cute story) and oh! (because it is always useful to remember that even the greatest wordsmiths are human beings).

... there are more reasons; though if these are not enough, this isn't the book for you.
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Format: Paperback
I purchased this to help teach my Grade 8's. Many of the exercises are too advanced for them, but perfect for me! Some exercises are interesting ways of reading the literature of others too, and I like the way Kiteley refers to pieces of writing which inspired a certain exercise. I've loved every exercise I've tried so far. My one relieved criticism is, I haven't been up at 3am yet!
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Format: Paperback
Some of these exercises are clear, and I think would be extremely useful for me (I'm still at the early stages of using this book, so haven't tried most of them). Others don't interest me at all, and I don't agree with the author's reasoning for why they're useful (it depends on your priorities as a writer, I guess -- it's worth going a bit out of your comfort zone, but I feel that I've got enough to do focusing on the topics that are relevant or tangentially relevant to my current writing, without working on stuff that I'm really not interested in).

But some I just find completely confusing, as if they've been poorly edited before releasing this book. An example is his exercise called "Maps":

"Draw a map of a small place... and then write a fragment of a story that would not make sense without this map. The reader should receive a very strong sense of this place -- enough so the reader should be able to draw a map of the place simply from reading the story. The story somehow needs this map. The reader should be unable to understand the story without having a clear picture of its layout."

So does that mean that I should make the description clear enough that the map in the end is not needed, or should I make the description rely on having the map beside it? The instructions seem self-contradictory.

Another confusing/badly edited example:

"Use a house in a story fragment. Think about the power of rooms... on psychology and conversation. In this fragment, make the house a unique, though passive, participant in the unfolding events. The room need not be in a typical house."

So am I meant to be writing about a room, or a house?

Finally:

"Write about a professional writer...
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