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This book exemplifies the best of a writing workshop: thought-provoking instruction, a charismatic teacher and illuminating examples from classic and contemporary literary masters. Each chapter explores a different aspect of the art of fiction and ends with a series of writing exercises –127 in all. Complete with self-critique questions to help you assess your work, these e This book exemplifies the best of a writing workshop: thought-provoking instruction, a charismatic teacher and illuminating examples from classic and contemporary literary masters. Each chapter explores a different aspect of the art of fiction and ends with a series of writing exercises –127 in all. Complete with self-critique questions to help you assess your work, these exercises challenge you to experiment with the diverse writing styles as you clarify your own. Make the most of Josip Novakovich's insightful, mind-expanding workshop and come away with a stronger voice, a broader perspective and better fiction.


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This book exemplifies the best of a writing workshop: thought-provoking instruction, a charismatic teacher and illuminating examples from classic and contemporary literary masters. Each chapter explores a different aspect of the art of fiction and ends with a series of writing exercises –127 in all. Complete with self-critique questions to help you assess your work, these e This book exemplifies the best of a writing workshop: thought-provoking instruction, a charismatic teacher and illuminating examples from classic and contemporary literary masters. Each chapter explores a different aspect of the art of fiction and ends with a series of writing exercises –127 in all. Complete with self-critique questions to help you assess your work, these exercises challenge you to experiment with the diverse writing styles as you clarify your own. Make the most of Josip Novakovich's insightful, mind-expanding workshop and come away with a stronger voice, a broader perspective and better fiction.

30 review for Fiction Writer's Workshop

  1. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Alvarez

    Okay okay so I always complain about books on writing yet I am constantly reading books on writing either for classes or as craft markers for my own practice. This one was actually pretty good. First of all, its written by an accomplished author (that's crucial for me at this point). Secondly, it presents itself as a textbook. One of the aspects of the "how to write..." genre that I can't stand is the veiled arrogance behind most of those books. The posture tends to be, "well you are actually a Okay okay so I always complain about books on writing yet I am constantly reading books on writing either for classes or as craft markers for my own practice. This one was actually pretty good. First of all, its written by an accomplished author (that's crucial for me at this point). Secondly, it presents itself as a textbook. One of the aspects of the "how to write..." genre that I can't stand is the veiled arrogance behind most of those books. The posture tends to be, "well you are actually a perfectly great writer and here are some tips to get past those pesky gatekeepers who need to be tricked into publishing your already great, flawless writing." At least a textbook comes from the perspective that writing is a craft to be worked on and improved. I'll stick with that sort of optimism carried over: good work gets published; no one is tricking anyone with secret codes and methods. Anyway, Novakovich is an interesting writer and though I disagreed with his opinions at times he actually invites this and by no means considers his own word final. All in all this was a useful overview of the main building blocks of fiction and the included anthology of stories were useful and interesting.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    If you're looking for a writing book where an author riffs on writing for a while looks elsewhere. It reads more casual than a textbook would, but Fiction Writer's Workshop demands a lot of work out of the reader. If you're not willing to go through it performing most of the exercises you're not going to get the most out of it Granted I've yet to redo the whole book doing all the exercises, but as far as I've gotten I've consistently found stories that I didn't know I had in me. The author takes If you're looking for a writing book where an author riffs on writing for a while looks elsewhere. It reads more casual than a textbook would, but Fiction Writer's Workshop demands a lot of work out of the reader. If you're not willing to go through it performing most of the exercises you're not going to get the most out of it Granted I've yet to redo the whole book doing all the exercises, but as far as I've gotten I've consistently found stories that I didn't know I had in me. The author takes the approach of throwing as many techniques your way as possible and then asking you to experiment with them. You'll embrace some and loathe others and in the process you'll find out more about yourself as a writer and end up with a few pieces that you'll definitely want to work on some more. FWW probably has more value if you're a beginner with the dedication to write everyday and learn the craft or an aspiring writer who's had trouble actually getting stories completed. If you've been published and are just looking for a source of new ideas this is probably a path you've already been down before.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Oh my God! From ideas in the first couple of chapters, I wrote three, count 'em THREE short stories! Similar output throughout the rest of the book. Love it! Oh my God! From ideas in the first couple of chapters, I wrote three, count 'em THREE short stories! Similar output throughout the rest of the book. Love it!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Mitchell

    I was introduced to this book last year, through participation of an Open University online course, so got myself a copy. It's written in plain English, without the sanctimonious habit many instructive authors have of loading everything with mysterious jargon and/or elusive, frilly words not used since Dickens was a lad. This means that it's a book which extends a welcome to new writers, rather than making them feel out of their depth. As a seasoned author himself, Novakovich is able to justify I was introduced to this book last year, through participation of an Open University online course, so got myself a copy. It's written in plain English, without the sanctimonious habit many instructive authors have of loading everything with mysterious jargon and/or elusive, frilly words not used since Dickens was a lad. This means that it's a book which extends a welcome to new writers, rather than making them feel out of their depth. As a seasoned author himself, Novakovich is able to justify his lessons and examples through his own experiences. He does, however, honestly state that these are just his experiences, and in no way intended to dismiss methods others support. This makes the book as welcoming to other experienced writers too, because it doesn't disregard what they have to say. I've read other reviews, and many of them allude to the extensive amount of exercises at the end of each chapter. Some have insisted it's top heavy, in that respect. Is it? I challenge that and assert that writing as a profession is bloody hard work! If a reader is serious about becoming a professional writer, then these exercises are really just the tip of the iceberg, and a realistic way of setting expectations of what needs to be done to succeed. I still have many of these exercises to do, and will continue to redo them in the future. Overall I think it's an excellent guide, providing the reader has an open mind and a good work ethic.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Knighton

    There's a familiarity that comes from reading a lot of writing books, and certainly Novakovich's book spends time on things you'll have read elsewhere. But it's good to be reminded of these lessons, and they come with some excellent practice exercises. His breakdown of subjects like forms of humour also gave me some interesting new food for thought. There's a familiarity that comes from reading a lot of writing books, and certainly Novakovich's book spends time on things you'll have read elsewhere. But it's good to be reminded of these lessons, and they come with some excellent practice exercises. His breakdown of subjects like forms of humour also gave me some interesting new food for thought.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John David

    A very good resource for new and seasoned writers. I am moving into the fiction genre, and this book is very helpful, especially the exercises. Even if you don't actually do them, just thinking about the subject helps you learn. There are many awesome examples of the situations that are described. A very good resource for new and seasoned writers. I am moving into the fiction genre, and this book is very helpful, especially the exercises. Even if you don't actually do them, just thinking about the subject helps you learn. There are many awesome examples of the situations that are described.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Howe

    It's super basic. Some of the examples are taken out of context and the suggested changes are absurd. The exercises are really the only reason to get this book. It's super basic. Some of the examples are taken out of context and the suggested changes are absurd. The exercises are really the only reason to get this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gabe

    I found Fiction Writer’s Workshop to be very informative. There was a lot of information in this book that I had previously learned, but had almost forgotten. While reading the book when I learned about a new technique or was re-familiarized with an old, I would suddenly feel inspired to write just to test the techniques out. Novakovich does an excellent job of breaking down by chapter the fundamental principles of writing. For most of his advice he provides clear examples, which help to better I found Fiction Writer’s Workshop to be very informative. There was a lot of information in this book that I had previously learned, but had almost forgotten. While reading the book when I learned about a new technique or was re-familiarized with an old, I would suddenly feel inspired to write just to test the techniques out. Novakovich does an excellent job of breaking down by chapter the fundamental principles of writing. For most of his advice he provides clear examples, which help to better illustrate the principles he is trying to teach. Early into the book, in the Setting As Antagonist section Novakovich speaks of a writers need to view the world through fresh eyes. To experience everything, not only in the rare but in the mundane. I felt this was an extremely important bit of advice. As a writer, inspiration can sometimes appear rather illusive, but that is usually a result of our wanting to be inspired by an external force without attempting to find the inspiration on our own through simple appreciation of our surroundings. Familiarity can sometimes be very inspiring, but only if we allow ourselves to see the familiar in different ways. Novakovich says, “I took my eight-month-old son to the zoo to see the elephants. He found a bee circling around us far more intriguing than a dancing elephant. Instead of noticing gibbons leaping on trees, he noticed fish in the water. It struck me that his perspective had a tremendous advantage over mine. He saw the world, while I saw the zoo.” I found this to be wonderfully appropriate and important observation. As writers, we can easily believe that ideas can be hard to come by, but if we view the world as a child would, we would find a story to tell about most anything. Later within the chapter, in the Setting as a Character Portrait section, Novakovich speaks about using the setting to describe a character. He explains how using the character's habits of arranging or keeping his belongings can be a useful way to illustrate the characters personality. This seemed to me to be a very comfortable way to describe a character, because it is something most people naturally do when entering another person's space. It’s human nature to judge a person by how they organize (or lack of organizing) their surroundings (life). The example Novakovich used from Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol, was a perfect example of this method. It gave me a good starting point to begin my own experimentation of the method. I would say that the biggest potential shortcomings of the book were the exercises. Not for their content, but for the layout. But, that would only be a problem in my opinion, depending on how the reader approaches them. If someone felt they had to do each and every exercise then they might find themselves a little overwhelmed. I took the exercises as suggestions that you could use in the future. At times you either need inspiration or just want to practice, but I am not sure that is how Novakovich meant the reader to use them. Overall, I found the book to be very well structured making referring back to it rather easy. Novakovich does a good job of providing clear tools that the reader can quickly apply to his/her own writing. I think I will find myself turning back to this book often. While the practical tools he provides are valuable, I believe his advice on how to approach writing, and his advice on how to personalize your writing is probably the most important portion of anything he has laid out in the book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*

    A great source for fiction writers, although it falls short in some areas. Each section begins with a lecture of some sort, with examples and thoughts, then numerous assignments. It's divided into Sources of Fiction, Setting, Character, Plot, Point of View, Dialogue and Scenes, Beginnings and Endings, Description and Word Choice, Voice, then Revision. The chapter on gathering story ideas is pretty generic but useful in a broad way. He lists some general things to trigger your thinking, like childh A great source for fiction writers, although it falls short in some areas. Each section begins with a lecture of some sort, with examples and thoughts, then numerous assignments. It's divided into Sources of Fiction, Setting, Character, Plot, Point of View, Dialogue and Scenes, Beginnings and Endings, Description and Word Choice, Voice, then Revision. The chapter on gathering story ideas is pretty generic but useful in a broad way. He lists some general things to trigger your thinking, like childhood, friends, stories you hear, but that's as far as it goes. Setting is divided into many sections, all useful, very informative, alive with detail. If you had a problem with setting before, this is up your alley. The character section discusses round characters, their mannerisms, appearance, etc. It has useful comments but again is all general. Plot is a great chapter - he discusses character conflict plots, non-confrontational plots, and combinations. He mentions a note card technique for generating plots but as before, it's more of an educational guide and not an inspirational one. I didn't find much useful advice for organizing or structuring a story. His point of view is loaded with stuff I've never seen before; I consider this one of the best chapters the book offers. The only problems I had was the guide was written in a sort of stuffy way at times. Also, many of the story examples used were not works I read, or have an interest in reading, more literary types work that you focus on in school. Because of this, it was a bit harder for me to get drawn into these sorts of examples. Overall, though, it's a great guide for writing itself, not necessarily novel writing or short stories alone.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This book covers basic elements of fiction: setting, plot, character, beginnings & endings, dialogue & narritive, voice. POV, and revising. Each chapter provides multiple examples using works of fiction, and exercises and checklists for further writing development. I've read a lot of these kinds of books and I like this one because it goes more in-depth on technique. The examples were a little dated; except for a couple, I'd never read the books that were quoted from. But I liked the author's fre This book covers basic elements of fiction: setting, plot, character, beginnings & endings, dialogue & narritive, voice. POV, and revising. Each chapter provides multiple examples using works of fiction, and exercises and checklists for further writing development. I've read a lot of these kinds of books and I like this one because it goes more in-depth on technique. The examples were a little dated; except for a couple, I'd never read the books that were quoted from. But I liked the author's fresh approach and ideas. The excercises really make you think critically about your writing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Patterson

    Great for writers! 4/5

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karine Green

    I really enjoyed it, and did get some great ideas from it. It was a bit dry in places. I think someone in a review mentioned that it reads like a textbook. I would have to agree.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Candace Haskell

    Fiction Writer's Workshop was an extremely useful text I used for a Writer's Digest course. The author does an excellent job of describing the various elements of good fiction and how to practice them. The best part is the assignments he gives at the end of each chapter, challenging the would-be-writer to actually write, to self-edit and to improve. Also included are eight literary short stories used as examples, which are then again followed by challenging writing assignments. This book can eas Fiction Writer's Workshop was an extremely useful text I used for a Writer's Digest course. The author does an excellent job of describing the various elements of good fiction and how to practice them. The best part is the assignments he gives at the end of each chapter, challenging the would-be-writer to actually write, to self-edit and to improve. Also included are eight literary short stories used as examples, which are then again followed by challenging writing assignments. This book can easily be used independently of an instructor - for beginning or for more advanced writers who need a good goosing to get going after a dry spell.

  14. 5 out of 5

    ken

    My reading this was primarily an exercise in defamiliarization and to see examples for description, setting-building, etc. in other novels and to build up my ever-growing pile of books to read. This text is great too because it comes with writing exercises. Unfortunately at most, the advice given towards Pacing is minimal, and since I am still Pacing's bitch, guess I'll still have to struggle in working through it. My reading this was primarily an exercise in defamiliarization and to see examples for description, setting-building, etc. in other novels and to build up my ever-growing pile of books to read. This text is great too because it comes with writing exercises. Unfortunately at most, the advice given towards Pacing is minimal, and since I am still Pacing's bitch, guess I'll still have to struggle in working through it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Molly Montgomery

    I am planning on using this for teaching an intro to fiction course. It definitely has a lot of useful tips and exercises even for experienced writers. My favorite part of this book is the short anthology of short stories at the end with explanations highlighting different aspects of the stories that work well.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mathes

    This is a useful book and handy reference for beginning and advanced fiction writers. The author organizes well, starting with Setting, Character, Plot, POV, Dialogue, Scene, Beginnings and Endings and Description. Exercises and examples are helpful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dominique Dixon

    It was an easy read and the way humor is used made the reading fun. The exercises at the end of each chapter help to retain the information provided in the previous chapter. It's a book I will continue to reference on my fiction writing path. I would recommend it to anybody. It was an easy read and the way humor is used made the reading fun. The exercises at the end of each chapter help to retain the information provided in the previous chapter. It's a book I will continue to reference on my fiction writing path. I would recommend it to anybody.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pippa

    Published in 1995 this is now quite out of date, but a lot of it is still useful.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Bowers

    It's a good book. It provides some good tips and teaches you who to write fiction. However it does get dull after reading it for a while. Definitely need to take breaks when reading this. It's a good book. It provides some good tips and teaches you who to write fiction. However it does get dull after reading it for a while. Definitely need to take breaks when reading this.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rumi

    This is a great book: technically, it drags the reader's attention towards many aspects of the trade which might easily be neglected by a novice writer. Reading this book doesn't necessarily mean that I will abide by its useful principles before I encounter them as mistakes in my own writing, but it's always a relief to know that others have encountered the same problems I might be having; and it's good to know I have somewhere to read such detailed and carefully structured advice. Moving on, rea This is a great book: technically, it drags the reader's attention towards many aspects of the trade which might easily be neglected by a novice writer. Reading this book doesn't necessarily mean that I will abide by its useful principles before I encounter them as mistakes in my own writing, but it's always a relief to know that others have encountered the same problems I might be having; and it's good to know I have somewhere to read such detailed and carefully structured advice. Moving on, reading the book is an inspirational as well as an educational experience. It fired my enthusiasm for writing at a time when I had almost forgotten that it's something I truly love doing rather than just a silly childish dream that's been hanging around for much too long. I am sure I'll be returning to this book many, many times in the future.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lovett.nicholas

    This is a great book about learning the craft of writing fiction. All of the aspects are covered from POV, character, and plot to revision, dialogue and setting. I thought there were too many exercises and the exercises were too long. I filled up a Five Star one subject notebook for doing 66% of the exercises. There wasn't enough subject matter in the chapters to justify 15-20 pages worth of workshop exercises. I think he wanted to write a textbook but also wanted sales from the writer like mysel This is a great book about learning the craft of writing fiction. All of the aspects are covered from POV, character, and plot to revision, dialogue and setting. I thought there were too many exercises and the exercises were too long. I filled up a Five Star one subject notebook for doing 66% of the exercises. There wasn't enough subject matter in the chapters to justify 15-20 pages worth of workshop exercises. I think he wanted to write a textbook but also wanted sales from the writer like myself who learns from doing. I would recommend this book or the workshop book from Gotham if you want to write the write way.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Noble

    so extremely helpful. it talks about fiction and your sources, inspiration, and content of your body of work as an author. The chapters covered topics like research, muses, and writer’s block. The book goes on to discuss in-depth subjects such as setting, scene, dialogue, plot, character, point of view, voice, formatting, editing, revising, description, and word choice. With each chapter, there were many good points and things I hadn’t thought of before. At the end of each chapter, the author gav so extremely helpful. it talks about fiction and your sources, inspiration, and content of your body of work as an author. The chapters covered topics like research, muses, and writer’s block. The book goes on to discuss in-depth subjects such as setting, scene, dialogue, plot, character, point of view, voice, formatting, editing, revising, description, and word choice. With each chapter, there were many good points and things I hadn’t thought of before. At the end of each chapter, the author gave helpful prompts and exercises to help strengthen what we had learned for practice.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy Saunders

    Another book that makes you dig deeper. I found the exercises refreshing compared to other similar guides. They require more time and thought but I've had many successful sessions using this book. The advice and suggestions has helped me improve in specific areas like dialogue. Plus, I love all the examples from famous authors. They really show how to use the information in the book. Another book that makes you dig deeper. I found the exercises refreshing compared to other similar guides. They require more time and thought but I've had many successful sessions using this book. The advice and suggestions has helped me improve in specific areas like dialogue. Plus, I love all the examples from famous authors. They really show how to use the information in the book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott Ansley

    Great advice for writers of all levels. I think it would be considerably more useful as a reference then as something to attempt to read straight through. The repeated pattern of this is what this thing is called here is an example of this thing, gets a little obnoxious and agonizingly boring. I can't tell you how many times I fell asleep doing my reading assignment for the week. Great advice for writers of all levels. I think it would be considerably more useful as a reference then as something to attempt to read straight through. The repeated pattern of this is what this thing is called here is an example of this thing, gets a little obnoxious and agonizingly boring. I can't tell you how many times I fell asleep doing my reading assignment for the week.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    This and its companion Writing Fiction Step by Step basically contain a lifetime worth of exercises and inspiration. On par with Gardner's The Art of Fiction, these two books could be the foundation textbooks for a series of creative writing courses: beginner to intermediate to advanced. This and its companion Writing Fiction Step by Step basically contain a lifetime worth of exercises and inspiration. On par with Gardner's The Art of Fiction, these two books could be the foundation textbooks for a series of creative writing courses: beginner to intermediate to advanced.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Angry.Sad.Motivated

    This is an excellent text for writing fiction. My students found it interesting and approachable. The long list of exercises at the end of each chapter are just right for encouraging students to revisit chapters throughout the semester.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gilfillan

    This was a good read, and has many ideas for writing exercises, which look interesting, but I don't know if I'd ever do. Might be worth a return to, but I wasn't as inspired as I was by other writing books I've read. This was a good read, and has many ideas for writing exercises, which look interesting, but I don't know if I'd ever do. Might be worth a return to, but I wasn't as inspired as I was by other writing books I've read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jen Appell

    This book was great for writing! I took it out of the library and it really helped me get motivated as well as learn some new tips. It has a lot of exercises and examples as well. I'm pretty sure I'll be taking this out of the library again. This book was great for writing! I took it out of the library and it really helped me get motivated as well as learn some new tips. It has a lot of exercises and examples as well. I'm pretty sure I'll be taking this out of the library again.

  29. 4 out of 5

    fin

    Writing exercises at the end of every chapter.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Femmy

    A good and comprehensive book about the basics of writing fiction.

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