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978-1-884910-51-7 / 9781884910517

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About the book:

Unable to secure a coveted spot in a creative-writing program? Unwilling to make the life changes necessary to do so? Creating Fiction is a fiction-writing course from some of those programs' top instructors. Among the finest of these 23 never-before-published essays about fiction writing--each of which is accompanied by a few writing exercises--are those by Jane Smiley on revision, John Barth on plot, Carrie Brown on the writing of magic realism, and Julie Checkoway on "The Lingerie Theory of Literature" ("The fundamental secret ... to the effective ending," Checkoway confides, "is to practice the restraint one sees in those Victoria's Secret lingerie ads--enough coyness to tantalize, enough enigma to tease, but never, ever, too much naked abandon").

And Philip Gerard, author of Hatteras Light and instructor at UNC-Wilmington, has written a standout piece about structuring the novel and story collection. "It astonishes me," says Gerard, "that intelligent people who would not hold a wedding, plant a garden, or even slap together a utility shed without exhaustive planning nonetheless regard the novel as a spontaneous literary event that just happens onto the page." Of course, there are many novelists who would disagree with Gerard about such planning, but Gerard is not advocating writing an outline and sticking to it. "The central paradox of writing the novel," he says, is that "you have to know where it's going, but when it speaks to you, shows you a better direction, you have to be ready to abandon your plan and listen to the story." Gerard also has unorthodox ideas on the organizing of story collections. While most writers obsess over story arrangement, Gerard's approach is more relaxed. "Enough readers read at random within the collection," he advises, "that worrying too much about the order of stories may distract the writer and editor from more important considerations." And whatever you do, don't be overwhelmed by the concept of writing a book. "Nobody writes a book," says Gerard. "What you write every day is a piece of a book, a fragment, a scene." --Jane Steinberg

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