Cover image for So you want to write : how to master the craft of writing fiction and the personal narrative
So you want to write : how to master the craft of writing fiction and the personal narrative
Piercy, Marge.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Wellfleet, Mass. : Leapfrog Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
223 pages ; 23 cm
Added Author:
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN3355 .P54 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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For over ten years, Marge Piercy and Ira Wood have been teaching two popular master classes in the art of writing fiction and memoirs. They attract students nationwide who have failed to improve their work in courses concentrating on process' rather than craft, and want to go beyond :journaling" and "writing as therapy" to break through and publish their work. Drawing on talks, exercises and examples proven in the classroom, So You Want to Write addresses: How to begin a piece by seducing your reader, How to create characters that embody the infinite contradictions of human behavior, How to master the elements of plotting fiction, How to create a strategy for telling the story of your life, How to learn to read critically, like a professional writer, How to realistically approach publishing. Combining over seventy years of writing experience, other chapters include: The overlooked powers of dialogue, Creating descriptions that move readers emotionally, FAQ's about agents, rejections, submitting work effectively, what writers really earn, Overcoming shame and the difficulties of writing about loved ones. Marge Piercy is the author of 35 books of fiction and poetry. She has lectured or performed at over 300 universities, and sold over 3,000,000 books worldwide. Ira Wood is the author of three novels, a publisher, and a popular writing teacher, whose classes address writers' feelings of hopelessness and despair. They live on Cape Cod. Two: BEGINNINGS Fiction is as old a habit of our species as poetry. It goes back to telling a tale, the first perceptions of pattern, and narrative is still about pattern in human life. At core, it answers the question, what then? And then and then and then. And memoir is equally old: it's telling about your life, perhaps originally to children or a prospective mate or a new acquaintance. Poetry is an art of time, as music is. Rhythms are measured against time: they are measures of time. A poem goes forward a beat at a time as a dance does, step by step, phrase by phrase. Narrative, whether fiction or memoir, is about time. First this, then that.

Author Notes

Poet and novelist Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 31, 1936. She received a B. A. from the University of Michigan and an M. A. from Northwestern. She is involved in the Jewish renewal and political work and was part of the civil rights movement. She won the Arthur C. Clarke award. Besides writing her own novels and collections of poetry, she has collaborated with her husband Ira Wood on a play, The Last White Class, and a novel, Storm Tide. In 1997, they founded a small literary publishing company called the Leapfrog Press. She currently lives in Cape Cod.

(Bowker Author Biography) Marge Piercy is the author of 14 previous poetry collections and 14 novels. In 1990 her poetry won the Golden Rose, the oldest poetry award in the country. She lives on Cape Cod.

(Publisher Provided) Marge Piercy is the author of 35 books of poetry & fiction, including the best sellers "Gone to Soldiers" & "The Longings of Women".

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Here's a must-have for wouldbe writers: a howto book written by a popular novelist and a successful publisher. In 1996, the authors, who have been teaching popular writing classes for a decade or so, formed Leapfrog Press. They have also written a novel and a play together, while Piercy's own work remains highly respected. This fine book is a distillation of the wisdom they have accumulated and dispensed over the years. They start at the beginning with beginnings (story openings) and move smoothly through character building, the importance of dialogue and plot, and how to craft compelling narrative passages. The focus here is on technique rather than business, so readers seeking tips on finding a publisher or conducting contract negotiations should look elsewhere. Piercy and Wood have a more fundamental audience in mind: anyone who has a good story to tell but isn't quite sure how to tell it. Put this on the shelf right beside Strunk and White. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Work is its own cure. You have to like it better than being loved," writes novelist and poet Marge Piercy in the poem that prefaces her and novelist Ira Wood's (The Kitchen Man) guide for careerist writers, So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction and the Personal Narrative. "This book is a product of workshops we have given for many years," write the authors, and those not lucky enough to have participated in the workshops can now benefit from their no-nonsense wisdom. Eschewing the current trend in process-based writing classes and guides, Piercy and Wood urge writers to read critically and often; to ask themselves specific, exacting questions about their characters and plots; to complete the book's writing exercises; to do research in order to make a piece of writing believable; to participate in some kind of community of writers; and numerous other practical steps. Readers will appreciate the hardcore approach of these two dedicated writers. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Best-selling writer Piercy and her husband, novelist/publisher Wood, have been coteaching writers' workshops for about ten years. In an attempt to reach a larger audience, they have reproduced their master course in this useful manual. Advising against how-to books even their own the two authors encourage would-be writers to read as much as possible (included is a list of recommended books), as reading plays the key role in the process of learning how to write. The authors go on to discuss character, plot, dialog, and some of the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry. They also discuss how much writers can expect to earn, what those rejection letters from publishers really mean, and seven things to remember when the writing becomes intensely personal. The exercises at chapter ends are short and to the point, just enough to get the juices flowing. Because of the clear writing style and the authors' reputations, this book, although joining an already saturated market, is worth the shelf space. Recommended for public libraries. Lisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



"Revised and updated with over 100 new pages, seven all new chapters, and 30 new exercises, this expanded second edition of Piercy and Wood's widely acclaimed hands-on workshop explains all the elements essential to writing novels, short stories, and memoirs and delivers the information you need to get them published."--BOOK JACKET.

Table of Contents

An Introduction to the Second Editionp. 13
Sharpening Your Innate Skillsp. 17
Beginningsp. 27
Characterizationp. 47
How to Avoid Writing Like a Victimp. 75
The Uses of Dialogp. 79
Plot In The Novelp. 95
Personal Narrative Strategiesp. 117
Choosing And Manipulating Viewpointp. 129
Descriptionsp. 141
When You Have Research To Dop. 153
A Few Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fictionp. 161
Writing Short Storiesp. 177
Titlesp. 191
Writing Humor: Learning Survival Techniquesp. 197
A Scandal In The Familyp. 217
Work And Other Habitsp. 225
Fame, Fortune, And Other Tawdry Illusionsp. 237
The 10 Most Destructive Things Writers Can Dop. 249
Practical Informationp. 257
Frequently Answered Questionsp. 271
Appendix Ip. 285
Appendix IIp. 297
Indexp. 309
Acknowledgments of Excerptsp. 323