Teaching writing has introduced me to so many resources that would have been beyond helpful when I was bumbling around as a stupid twenty-something trying to figure out how to write. I guess it’s better late than never. My mentor introduced me to Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, last semester, and good God, if only I had had this book ten years ago….
Broken down into comprehensive chapters on everything from point-of-view, setting, characterization, and revising, Burroway takes a no-holds barred approach to guiding young writers through the craft process. Like most craft books, she uses examples from the classics, both modern and old to show how the best have crafted their literary legacies. But unlike other craft guides, (looking at you How Fiction Works) Burroway’s talking specifics and practicality. James Woods’ How Fiction Works, and even Francine Prose’s Reading like a Writer tackle craft in a more amorphous, theoretical way, that while I gave them both 5 stars in past reviews, have nothing on the down-to-business accessibility of Janet Burroway.
While for me, there’s a lot in here that reads as ‘yes, well of course I know that now,’ this book puts into words all the things I’ve been piecing together about the writing process over the last ten years. Burroway is honest about the process – it’s tough, it sucks, it takes time, and it’s never perfect and there’s no formula – and she’s clear and concise about the ways that young writers can practice tackling the tough, sucky, imperfect process. Each chapter has a list of books/short stories to check out that compliment what she’s discussing in the chapter, as well as a series of writing prompts to try out the craft.
I have highlighted and sticky-noted this book everywhere, and even though I’m in a space where I know most of what’s in this book, I am keeping this book next to me as I write anything from now on.
I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who’s looking to get better at craft.