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Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Donald Maass(Author)

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Capture the minds, hearts, and imaginations of 21st century readers!

Whether you're a commercial storyteller or a literary novelist, whether your goal is to write a best-selling novel or captivate readers with a satisfying, beautifully written story, the key to success is the same: high-impact fiction. Writing 21st Century Fiction will help you write a novel for today's readers and market, filled with rich characters, compelling plots, and resonant themes. Author and literary agent Donald Maass shows you how to:

  • Create fiction that transcends genre, conjures characters who look and feel more "real" than real people, and shows readers the work around them in new ways.
  • Infuse every page with an electric current of emotional appeal and micro-tension.
  • Harness the power of parallels, symbols, metaphors, and more to illuminate your novel in a lasting way.
  • Develop a personalized method of writing that works for you.

With an arsenal of thought-provoking prompts and questions, plus plenty of examples from best-selling titles, Writing 21st Century Fiction will strip away your preconceived notions about writing in today's world and give you the essential tools you need to create fiction that will leave both readers and critics in awe.

Donald Maass heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 150 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books of interest to fiction writers, including Writing the Breakout Novel, The Fire in Fiction, and The Breakout Novelist (all from Writer's Digest Books).

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Book details

  • PDF | 224 pages
  • Donald Maass(Author)
  • Writer's Digest Books (October 16, 2012)
  • English
  • 3
  • Reference

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Review Text

  • By Chryse Wymer on October 12, 2012

    Donald Maass's book The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great changed the way I wrote so completely that I pre-ordered this one.While I do think Maass offers some exercises that are helpful enough to make this book "above average" and reading it is wonderfully inspirational, this book rehashes a great deal of material from his other works. If you've not read The Fire in Fiction, this might be a better place to start because it reads like The Fire in Fiction Lite, in my view. Maass gives entire chapters on The Inner Journey and The Outer Journey...subjects he has covered quite well for me. I understood this in Fire, that every turning point in a story has an inner and outer component.In Chapter 3 Levels of Story, again, he repeats himself. He tells us that tension comes from conflicting emotions. Well, yes, I read that in Fire in Fiction and employed it. The concept of plot layers? Yep, read that in Breakout Workbook. There's not much new here except that Writer's Digest Books must have changed their editor from a trained monkey to an actual human being. The editing was quite good, and there are a few helpful exercises. However, if I could only buy one book by Donald Maass, I would make it The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers. It reads like an amalgamation of all his amazing genius from, if not a master writer (still wonder what his pen name is), then at least a master mentor to a great number of writers.If it takes you a little time to pick up on key concepts, then this is a great start. Otherwise, if you read and picked up on the important bits in Maass's other books, this one isn't really all that necessary.

  • By Dr. C. J. Singh on October 21, 2012

    .Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, CA).HIGH-IMPACT TOOLS for WRITING 21st CENTURY FICTIONIn the opening chapter, Donald Maass introduces his book's basic premise: In the 21st century "high-impact novels utilize what is best about literary and commercial fictions," transcending the dichotomy (pages 2-3). Maass equates "high-impact" with a novel's inclusion on the New York Times bestseller list: the longer it stays on the list, the higher its impact.The second chapter's title "The Death of Genre" proclaims assimilation of commercial or genre fiction into literary fiction: "A curious phenomenon has arisen in recent years. It's the appearance of genre fiction so well written that it attains a status and recognition usually reserved for literary works" (page 13). As examples, he cites Robert Stone's "Damascus Gate" -- literary and thriller; and Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union"--literary and murder mystery.However, the dichotomy flourishes in MFA programs in American universities. "Literary fiction differs from genre fiction fundamentally in the fact that the former is character-driven, the latter plot-driven....Many, perhaps most, teachers of fiction writing do not accept manuscripts in genre." That's a quote from Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (8th Edition), the most widely used textbook in fiction-writing courses. (See my review on amazon.) This dichotomy first arose from early twentieth century modernist and mid-century postmodernist literary movements. Recently, the excesses of postmodernism have led to a reaction for which literary theorists have not yet found a label and are calling it post-postmodernist literary works. (See my note at the end of this review for a brief exposition of these movements.)Maass's subsequent chapters present tools for writing high-impact fiction. Some of these tools are similar to those in his earlier books such as The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques. (See my review on amazon.). Can this book be comprehended without reading his earlier books on craft? Yes.The third chapter, "The Inner Journey," presents excerpts from several novels such as Joshilyn Jackson's "gods in Alabama," published in 2005, and Jamie Ford's "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," published in 2009. Can these excerpts be understood without having read the novels? Yes. Maass skillfully presents synopses of each novel excerpted.The fourth chapter, "The Outer Journey," focuses on plot, citing excerpts from Jonathan Safran Foer's "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," published in 2005, and Abraham Verghese's "Cutting for Stone," published in 2009.The fifth chapter, "Standout Characters" cites examples from Markus Zasuk's "The Book Thief," published in 2005 and Lorrie Moore's "A Gate at the Stairs," published in 2009. Also Abraham Verghese's "Cutting for Stone," cited in the previous chapter, underscoring high-impact novel's requirement of both plot- and character-driven writing.The sixth chapter, "The Three Levels of Story," focuses on subplots, citing detailed examples of Pamela Morsi's "Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar," published in 2009, and Kate Morton's "The Forgotten Garden," published in 2009. This chapter also discusses strong endings, citing J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," published in 2007.The seventh chapter, "Beautiful Writing," cites many examples, including Kathryn Socket's "The Help," published in 2009; Daniel Depp's "Losers Town" (2009); and George R. R. Martin's "A Feast for Crows,"(2005).In the eighth chapter, "The 21st Century Novelist," Maass writes, "You no doubt have noticed my contempt for the three Rs of inactive literary writing: reaction, reflection, and remembering." He cites an excerpt from Helen Simonson's "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand," replete with three Rs and does have underlying tension. Will this chapter's title become the title of Maass's next book?Thanks to Maass's persuasive comments and synopses, I have added five novels to my "must read asap" list: Lorrie Moore's "A Gate at the Stairs'; Helen Simpson's "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand"; Jamie Ford's "The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet"; Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief"; Tatiana de Rosnay's "Sarah's Key."Five-star book.--------------------------[The following is an appendix to the above review. The origin of literary modernism goes back to at least the early twentieth century. In a 1924 essay, Virginia Woolf wrote: "On or about December 1910 human character changed." She was referring to an art exhibition titled "Manet and the Post-impressionists" that included paintings by Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, as well as younger post-impressionists such as Picasso and Matisse. Inspired by this movement in visual arts, fiction that's planned to be different from traditional forms of the past, came to be created and later called modernist. The term is applied to the experimental and avant-garde writings of the early 20th century. Its techniques include: aesthetic self-consciousness and extreme subjectivity leading to unreliable narrators; stream of consciousness; interior monologue; nonlinear chronology. Modernist novelists writing in English include Joseph Conrad, James Joyce of Ulysses, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner.Literary postmodernism arose after World War II. It's characterized by ironic parody, inter-textuality, the foregrounding of the process of its own creation, and the rejection of "grand narratives." Postmodernist novelists writing in English include: James Joyce of Finnegan's Wake, Vladimir Nabokov of Pale Fire, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Kurt Vonnegut, Ishmael Reed, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo.Some aspects of postmodernism have led to negative reactions such as from James Wood, currently Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, who introduced the term "hysterical realism" as his denigration. Others have suggested post-postmodernism. Why not simply "21st Century Fiction."]

  • By Cora L. Foerstner on April 13, 2015

    Donald Maass’ book Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling is my favorite how-to book for writers.Maass take both a common sense and analytical approach to evaluating 21st century fiction. He points out that novels have also evolved to meet the needs and wants of readers, and successful writers understand this.“High-impact comes from a combination of two factors: great stories and beautiful writing . . . The publishing industry has a convenient term for these wonder books: literary/commercial fiction.” (2-3)Maass argues that successful 21st century novels are high-impact novels. They appeal to the masses and cross over from genre or literary fiction to the bestseller lists.What they have in common is that like genre fiction, they tell great stories, and like literary fiction, they are beautifully written and explore character.He also says, “[High-impact] panders to no one. It speaks to everyone.” Sounds like good news for writers!“Commercial and literary successes are the result of hard work, instinct, study, and the honing of craft. They are not mutually exclusive . . . strong storytelling and beautiful writing are the twin elements that make a big lasting impression on readers.” (208-09)His chapters give writers the tools for hard work, study, and honing your craft.Here’s a breakdown of the chapters:Chapters 1 & 2: Current trends and rising above a category.Chapters 3 & 4: The writer’s inner and outer journeys.Chapter 5: Standout Character; this is an excellent chapter.Chapter 6: Three levels of story; his breakdown of scene writing is impressive.Chapter 7: Beautiful Prose; this chapter highlights high-impact novels by showing the relationship between great plots and beautiful writing.Chapter 8: The writer and the process; he comes full circle and turns to earlier discussions to bring his points together.Chapter 9: Element of Awe; he inspires the reader “to make good art” as Neil Gaiman would say.Each chapter ends with “21st Century Tools,” sets of questions related to the chapter and designed to guide a writer through the creative process. As I read, I worked my way through most of the questions, which is the primary reason this book took so long to finish.If you’re the kind of person who is inclined to dismiss the questions and be satisfied with reading the chapter, I would advise against that strategy.I found the questions invaluable. As I explored the questions, I felt as if I were in a workshop. I’m in the middle of revising a novel and took the time to apply the questions to my project. The questions and suggestions were helpful as I revised scenes.Because of my background in teaching, I realize the work and refining that goes into creating questions, which are helpful and practical. Maass’ questions are not busy work. If the results I’ve had working through these questions is any indication, I’d say they are a valuable part of the book.


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