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The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

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The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes When you write fiction, you march onto a minefield. This book gives you a map. Oh, what tricky terrain you're traveling! You must reckon with: Character, Conflict, Point of View, Dialogue, Editors, Editors, and Editors, who--by returning stories they see as problem-plagued--can burst your hopes of publication. Where are the problems The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes When you write fiction, you march onto a minefield. This book gives you a map. Oh, what tricky terrain you're traveling! You must reckon with: Character, Conflict, Point of View, Dialogue, Editors, Editors, and Editors, who--by returning stories they see as problem-plagued--can burst your hopes of publication. Where are the problems? Editors rarely take the time to map them out, so Jack Bickham has. In this book, he spotlights the 38 most common fiction writing land mines--writing mistakes that can turn even dynamite story ideas into slush pile rejects. And he guides you in overcoming them. In to-the-point style, he shows you how to: conquer procrastination--and put ink on paper regularly dump wimpy characters--and build characters ready to act look for trouble--and create conflicts for your characters cut coincidence--and put better-than-life logic into fiction escape the fog--and find and stick to your story's direction free feelings--and fire your fiction with passion and emotion In short, Bickham helps you take a giant step toward publication. Read this book. Strengthen your writing. And start setting off explosions where they belong: on the sales charts.


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The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes When you write fiction, you march onto a minefield. This book gives you a map. Oh, what tricky terrain you're traveling! You must reckon with: Character, Conflict, Point of View, Dialogue, Editors, Editors, and Editors, who--by returning stories they see as problem-plagued--can burst your hopes of publication. Where are the problems The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes When you write fiction, you march onto a minefield. This book gives you a map. Oh, what tricky terrain you're traveling! You must reckon with: Character, Conflict, Point of View, Dialogue, Editors, Editors, and Editors, who--by returning stories they see as problem-plagued--can burst your hopes of publication. Where are the problems? Editors rarely take the time to map them out, so Jack Bickham has. In this book, he spotlights the 38 most common fiction writing land mines--writing mistakes that can turn even dynamite story ideas into slush pile rejects. And he guides you in overcoming them. In to-the-point style, he shows you how to: conquer procrastination--and put ink on paper regularly dump wimpy characters--and build characters ready to act look for trouble--and create conflicts for your characters cut coincidence--and put better-than-life logic into fiction escape the fog--and find and stick to your story's direction free feelings--and fire your fiction with passion and emotion In short, Bickham helps you take a giant step toward publication. Read this book. Strengthen your writing. And start setting off explosions where they belong: on the sales charts.

30 review for The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jane Stewart

    Some excellent ideas and some I disagree with. Worth trying for beginning writers. I’ve edited quotations for brevity. TWO IDEAS I LIKE: 1. Character Actions. (page 104) Characters should “do things for what they see as good reasons and that will achieve their ends. Don’t have characters do things just because you, the author, want them to.” Personally, I do not like the following which I have seen too often. 1. a character lies which does not fit his motivations. 2. heroine stupidity. I’m happy to re Some excellent ideas and some I disagree with. Worth trying for beginning writers. I’ve edited quotations for brevity. TWO IDEAS I LIKE: 1. Character Actions. (page 104) Characters should “do things for what they see as good reasons and that will achieve their ends. Don’t have characters do things just because you, the author, want them to.” Personally, I do not like the following which I have seen too often. 1. a character lies which does not fit his motivations. 2. heroine stupidity. I’m happy to read about a flawed or stupid heroine, but don’t make a rational heroine do something illogical. 2. Too Much Pondering. (page 66). “Scenes (peaks) represent the high points of excitement and conflict. Sequels (valleys) are quieter times when conflict is not on stage - when the character has time to feel emotion, reflect on recent developments, and plan ahead. Your character reacts to the disaster that just took place...then plans what he is going to do next. Scenes move swiftly; sequels move slowly. If your story feels slow, you may need to expand your scenes and cut or shorten sequels.” (page 22) “Don’t write about wimps. It isn’t interesting, watching somebody sit in his easy chair and ponder things. Your character has to be a person capable of action. He doesn’t have to be a super hero. He may be active - refuse to give up or stop trying - yet still be scared or unsure of himself.” (pages 14-15): “Don’t do long descriptions. Fiction is movement. Any description stops movement. Characters’ thoughts and feelings are descriptions. Descriptions of the character’s state of mind and emotion should be brief. The accomplished writer will tell (describe) a little, and demonstrate (show in action) a lot.” SEVEN IDEAS I QUESTION OR DISAGREE WITH: 1. Disasters. (pages 62 and 104) Bickham says every scene/chapter must end in a disaster. I disagree. Bickham defines disaster as “Whatever your viewpoint character wants he must not get at the end of the scene. For if he does, he has suddenly become happy...story tension relaxes...the reader goes to sleep...and your story has failed. Most of your chapters must end with developments that hook the reader with a new twist, disaster or realization that defies the reader to quit at that point.” Personally, hooks don’t keep me reading. I read for specific periods of time and often stop in the middle of a chapter (like when I’m on the treadmill, when I’m in a waiting room, or when I’m on the train). I don’t need hooks. Sometimes I don’t want hooks. I look at the book as a whole. Things will be solved at the end. That keeps me reading. I don’t like requiring authors to jump through hoops to create hooks when it doesn’t fit the flow. Scenes have natural endings. Some of them end with here’s what I need to do next, or I’ve just met a new person. 2. Adjectives and Adverbs. (page 59) Bickham discourages the use of adjectives and adverbs. Most experts agree with him. The thinking is don’t use an adverb to help a weak verb. Use a stronger verb. That sounds reasonable to me, but I think too many experts go overboard in their ostracism of adverbs. J.K. Rowling uses tons of adverbs in the Harry Potter books. And her books are the most successful fiction books in the world! Following are some wonderful adverb examples from the first Harry Potter book. “eyed them angrily” “whispering excitedly” “acting oddly today” “said as casually as he could” “appeared so suddenly and silently.” And for those of you who may argue that certain genres lend themselves to adverbs, please note that John Grisham also uses them liberally in his legal thrillers. Grisham is another top selling author. Examples from Grisham’s book “The Client:” “slowly looked at Ricky” “he exhaled calmly.” “Mark carefully picked a cigarette from his shirt pocket.” “Mark suddenly remembered.” “He mumbled loudly.” One author who writes about cutting adverbs wrote the following sentence in her novel. “Mary awaited his visits with the utmost impatience.” This is clunky. I prefer “Mary impatiently awaited his visits.” Some editors say adverbs are like spices, use a little not a lot. They would probably consider Rowling and Grisham as too many. The bigger question is who should define “good writing” - english dept. academics and the experts they educate or all the people who buy the book? Personally I love the way Rowling and Grisham write. I think the rule should be write the first word that comes to your mind. Then when you reread, evaluate the adverbs. Remove them if they are not helpful, if they are redundant, or if you find something better. But don’t remove them because Big Brother says. 3. Tough Guys. (page 97) Bickham discourages having a tough guy/gal because it represents a false pose. “The character denies all impulse at the delicate or the soft by being over-tough, over-cynical, over-gruff, or over-bitter.” I wish Bickham would have shown examples. I would probably agree if he was talking about the cartoon villain tying the damsel to the railroad tracks. But one of my favorite characters is tough guy Jack Reacher by Lee Child. He’s a top selling author. Tough guys are not always bad. 4. Check Facts. I know “some” readers want facts, figures, and historical accuracy in their fiction. Therefore, I reluctantly accept Bickham’s recommendation to fact check everything. But personally I don’t care. I want to be entertained. And if the author makes things up I’m fine with it. In fact, sometimes made-up-things are more fun than existing things. I’m not reading fiction for an education. That’s what encyclopedias are for. I recall a contemporary suspense book with a stealth helicopter that made no noise. The heroine was alerted to its presence by wind chimes. I thought the wind chimes alert was so cool. Even though those helicopters probably don’t exist. 5. Outlines Rule, Don’t Deviate With A Muse. (page 69) Bickham wants writers to create an outline and not deviate. “Beware of late-blooming ideas that seem to come from nowhere during your writing of the project.” I think this depends on the author. In my opinion, if you are moved, let the muse take you. Worry about logic and plot later. You can cut creative bursts later - maybe use them for something else. It’s lack of creativity that hurts most books. Stephen King never plans a plot. He thinks of a situation, puts characters into it, and then watches the characters try to work themselves out of it. Most of the time the outcome is something he never expected. He says “I plot as little as possible. Plotting and the spontaneity of real creation are not compatible” from his book “On Writing.” 6. Don’t Use Real People in Your Story. (page 18) Bickman says they are dull. “Your idea for a character may begin with a real person, but to make him vivid enough for your readers to believe in him, you have to exaggerate tremendously, you have to make him practically a monster - for readers to see even his dimmest outlines.” I don’t have an opinion on this. But I do know that using real life people worked well for Stephen King. His first hit novel “Carrie” was based on two girls he knew - the two loneliest most reviled girls in his high school class. One of them had an overly religious mother. Steve combined the two girls into Carrie and used the religious mother as Carrie’s mother. And yes he exaggerated the characters in his book. Steve might be an exception, but he is a top selling author. 7. Point of View. (pages 34 and 35) “In a novel, there may be several viewpoints, but one must clearly dominate. It’s a fatal error to let your viewpoint jump around from character to character, with no viewpoint clearly dominating. Figure out whose story it is. Get inside that character - and stay there.” My thoughts follow. A. I usually do not like stories that are told from one viewpoint. For example, a bad guy enters a home and kidnaps a child. The main character (detective) is told that the child was kidnaped and takes action to solve the case. Because I was never in the bad guy’s head or the child’s head, I never saw how it happened, I never had a feeling about the bad guy, and I never experienced the child’s fear or trauma. So I like multiple viewpoints, which Bickham allows but discourages. B. In the novel “Carrie,” no one is the main viewpoint character. The reader is in the minds of many different characters throughout the book. It worked. I liked watching the thoughts and feelings of various characters. But this was an exception and may not be the best advice for others. SEVEN MORE IDEAS I LIKE: 1. Start your story with a threat - change. 2. Fiction must be more logical than real life. 3. Be obvious, not subtle. 4. Don’t write in slang where you drop letters and use apostrophes. 5. (pages 29 and 104) Avoid excessive luck or coincidence. Fix it so the character has the desired experience by trying, rather than by luck. Reading about someone blundering along, getting lucky, is neither interesting nor inspiring. 6. Once you introduce a character, like a doorman saying something, use the doorman later to do other things. It’s better to have fewer characters. The same applies to events. If you have a car accident, try to do other things relating to it. For example someone has an injury. Someone else saw the accident and does something as a result. 7. (page 104) The ending of the book “must answer the question you posed at the outset - clearly and unequivocally.” My thoughts: I’ve read too many books with unsatisfying endings because they were incomplete or too abrupt. I love epilogues. DATA: Story length: 117 pages. Swearing and sexual content: none. Copyright: 1992. Genre: nonfiction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Timothy McNeil

    Bickham is well aware that there cannot be a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to advice on writing, but he does seem aggressive in his presentation that there is a formula (left somewhat nebulous) to the craft. What is most disappointing is his absolute insistence that readers are stupid, lazy, and need to be spoon fed every little bit of information, whereas published authors and editors are definitionally masters of the craft and the only voices an unpublished, aspiring author should consider wort Bickham is well aware that there cannot be a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to advice on writing, but he does seem aggressive in his presentation that there is a formula (left somewhat nebulous) to the craft. What is most disappointing is his absolute insistence that readers are stupid, lazy, and need to be spoon fed every little bit of information, whereas published authors and editors are definitionally masters of the craft and the only voices an unpublished, aspiring author should consider worthy of his or her time. If this is not how Professor Bickham feels, then he needs to make a few revisions to this work, because it is clearly what he wrote. (At the same time, he attacks the academic interpretation of literature and a small, possibly imagined cadre of authors who claim that they don't have a formula for writing.) I would say that about ten of his mistakes are arguably not mistakes at all (not even artistic choices), but rather an expression of a man who is too used to writing formula fiction and motivating students to produce easily digestible text every week. Maybe six of the sections have meaningful insight. The rest kind of do what most books on writing seem to do, which is to reinforce that writers need to write if they want to be writers, and that the story must be coherent in order for it to mean anything to the reader.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Raphael Lysander

    This book gives pieces of advise on how to write a fiction like Twilight, not something great which adds to civilization like Crime and Punishment. And it's weirdly so much like Wired for Story Telling, but the last one was much better told, though from the same pop-commercial culture ! This book gives pieces of advise on how to write a fiction like Twilight, not something great which adds to civilization like Crime and Punishment. And it's weirdly so much like Wired for Story Telling, but the last one was much better told, though from the same pop-commercial culture !

  4. 4 out of 5

    Love of Hopeless Causes

    I've heard the content elsewhere except, "Don't Take it to the Writer's Club Meeting." This advice I have long suspected and intend to act on. I greatly admire Bickham, but this book is getting somewhat dated. The advice is still sound, but most of it is covered in, "Scene and Structure." I've heard the content elsewhere except, "Don't Take it to the Writer's Club Meeting." This advice I have long suspected and intend to act on. I greatly admire Bickham, but this book is getting somewhat dated. The advice is still sound, but most of it is covered in, "Scene and Structure."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heather Mims

    The only thing that bothered me was tip #30, which goes way overboard telling authors not to seek out or consider feedback from anyone other than professionals. Of course, he's entitled to his opinion, but every writer I know (including myself) has improved tremendously through the input of a healthy mix of people – family and friends, target audience, critique groups, and partnerships with other authors, published or otherwise. Working alongside and receiving feedback from fellow writers at any The only thing that bothered me was tip #30, which goes way overboard telling authors not to seek out or consider feedback from anyone other than professionals. Of course, he's entitled to his opinion, but every writer I know (including myself) has improved tremendously through the input of a healthy mix of people – family and friends, target audience, critique groups, and partnerships with other authors, published or otherwise. Working alongside and receiving feedback from fellow writers at any stage of the game is one of the biggest joys of writing for me. Hell, I probably wouldn't be doing it at all if I closed myself off to everyone but the professionals he suggests. But as with all writing advice, you take what makes sense for you on a personal level and discard what doesn't. So this one still deserves a good rating – there's a lot of useful stuff here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kachina

    I agree with several of the author's common-sense based rules (avoid using too much profanity, don't show off when your write ) but some things he calls "mistakes" simply aren't. Funny how he tells us not to assume our reader is dumb and then goes on to emphasize the importance of making things over-the-top obvious or else our reader won't "get" it. No, just because Charles Dickens was a master at creating larger than life, exaggerated characters, this does not mean we should all strive to do th I agree with several of the author's common-sense based rules (avoid using too much profanity, don't show off when your write ) but some things he calls "mistakes" simply aren't. Funny how he tells us not to assume our reader is dumb and then goes on to emphasize the importance of making things over-the-top obvious or else our reader won't "get" it. No, just because Charles Dickens was a master at creating larger than life, exaggerated characters, this does not mean we should all strive to do the same. A little subtlety can be just fine.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Keri Payton

    One of the first books I ever purchased on writing - alongside 'Writing the Breakout Novel' - is this one. Don’t describe sunsets, don’t waste your plot ideas, don’t worry what mother will think and don’t just sit there! When I read this book I find myself thinking many things: 'That’s a huge no-no I often spot in other people’s writing...and my own.' 'That’s a worry I have that I should really smother.' 'Why have I forgotten about this vital element? I need to put that in.' Most of all, I learn a lot One of the first books I ever purchased on writing - alongside 'Writing the Breakout Novel' - is this one. Don’t describe sunsets, don’t waste your plot ideas, don’t worry what mother will think and don’t just sit there! When I read this book I find myself thinking many things: 'That’s a huge no-no I often spot in other people’s writing...and my own.' 'That’s a worry I have that I should really smother.' 'Why have I forgotten about this vital element? I need to put that in.' Most of all, I learn a lot. This book brings to light 38 common mistakes when writing fiction. There are so many books on writing that bring up what to do when trying to write good stuff but they often skim what not to do. This is where this book comes in handy. It’s a slim thing but it’s full of valuable points and thoughts. This is a book that makes you think. I promise it will not make your eyes glaze over. It is definitely worth reading as it highlights a lot of points other books may be light on. Don’t fret too much over what not to do, however. Remember, the important thing to do is to write. This is a great book to come back to when you are looking to edit your fiction, maybe not so much when you are on the first draft and worrying about whether you are doing everything right. (From my blog, Quill Café)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Trishelle Lin

    I didn't agree with everything this guy had to say, but through a lot of the book he was talking right to me. It encouraged me to keep going, helped me to recognized some mistakes I've been making, and told me how to fix a lot of them. I'm sure I'll go back and read it again when my writing has taken a plummet. I didn't agree with everything this guy had to say, but through a lot of the book he was talking right to me. It encouraged me to keep going, helped me to recognized some mistakes I've been making, and told me how to fix a lot of them. I'm sure I'll go back and read it again when my writing has taken a plummet.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    I liked that this book kept things simple and easy to digest. Each mistake had a short chapter to itself, with explanations and examples. There were some useful things that I already knew, but that this highlighted -- for example, he emphasised using conflict/change to drive a story, and not letting characters be weak. Lo and behold, what is the problem with a couple of my original characters? They aren't necessary because they don't change or act for most of the story, but simply go with the fl I liked that this book kept things simple and easy to digest. Each mistake had a short chapter to itself, with explanations and examples. There were some useful things that I already knew, but that this highlighted -- for example, he emphasised using conflict/change to drive a story, and not letting characters be weak. Lo and behold, what is the problem with a couple of my original characters? They aren't necessary because they don't change or act for most of the story, but simply go with the flow. (For those who know Epidemic-verse -- Niamh, I am looking at you.) Unfortunately, I really hated the tone of it. I felt very much as if the author was secretly saying, "Here I am, up on my pedestal, and now all you little amateurs must sit and listen, because I am better than you". Really. He also alienated me by being just plain wrong. He gave "the rosy fingers of dawn" as an example of the kind of purple prose writers who are in love with their own writing fall prey to. "The rosy fingers of dawn" is, of course, an epithet used in the epics of Homer (and occasionally, Virgil's Aeneid). And that, of course, is not only work in translation anyway, but work from an oral tradition in which epithets were an expected and necessary part of the narrative. Pah.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Virginia Welch

    Here is a book that I will not be donating. As a writer, I'm always looking for books that help me improve my craft. When I was a young writer I would pick up anything. As I've aged, I've seeped a little patience here and there. Now I won't stick with a writing improvement book unless it's well focused, easy to read, entertaining, and gets to the point quickly. Bickham's book is all that. He promises you 38 valuable lessons, which he delivers in 38 short chapters, the kind you can easily finish, Here is a book that I will not be donating. As a writer, I'm always looking for books that help me improve my craft. When I was a young writer I would pick up anything. As I've aged, I've seeped a little patience here and there. Now I won't stick with a writing improvement book unless it's well focused, easy to read, entertaining, and gets to the point quickly. Bickham's book is all that. He promises you 38 valuable lessons, which he delivers in 38 short chapters, the kind you can easily finish, one a day perhaps, while sitting in the bathroom (sorry to be graphic―but you do read in the bathroom, don't you?). As I read I’m going “Yes! I’ve seen that problem before!” He provides many “aha” moments. He facilitates these revelations by explaining each writing bugaboo with its solution in exceedingly plain, common vernacular. He uses small and few words. We should all do this. Like I said, I won’t be donating this book as I do with so many others, because this book should be read annually as a reminder of what is good and what is bad about fiction writing. 112 pages Includes an index

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    I found this entertaining and some tips were helpful, but I would take a lost of the "mistakes" with a grain of salt. He contradicts a lot of other creative writing teachers, and I think some of these differences come down to the genres Bickham wrote: mostly crime and western. If, like me, you're rather into introspective slow literary novels, some of the advice just sounds really off. I found this entertaining and some tips were helpful, but I would take a lost of the "mistakes" with a grain of salt. He contradicts a lot of other creative writing teachers, and I think some of these differences come down to the genres Bickham wrote: mostly crime and western. If, like me, you're rather into introspective slow literary novels, some of the advice just sounds really off.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stef Smulders

    Practical, to the point, easy read. Maybe a bit severe on some points, but it is good to understand the basics before you allow yourself a bit of fooling around. Best advice: a story has to move forward, always, to be appreciated by the reader. Make clear what the main characters goal is and stick to it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul Lawrence

    An easy read and good summary of things to watch out for when you write.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Don Incognito

    This book contains useful practical advice on writing, in short chapters. Most of it is not in-depth theory on writing technique. The book does not say author Jack Bickham is or has been an editor, but he tends to have the viewpoint and attitude of one, and to be concerned with how the writer can make a work appealing to the reader. Some of the advice is: -Don't think you're smarter than the reader, and don't let your writing patronize. The reader (and the editor) can tell, and will be annoyed. -A This book contains useful practical advice on writing, in short chapters. Most of it is not in-depth theory on writing technique. The book does not say author Jack Bickham is or has been an editor, but he tends to have the viewpoint and attitude of one, and to be concerned with how the writer can make a work appealing to the reader. Some of the advice is: -Don't think you're smarter than the reader, and don't let your writing patronize. The reader (and the editor) can tell, and will be annoyed. -Also, don't show off your writing skills, such as by being unnecessarily verbose. -Patience. -Don't give much static description that stops plot events from occurring simultaneously. Most modern readers demand movement. -Don't use living real people, especially with their real names. It's not just that they could sue you; Bickham says characters should be constructed, not copied from life. -Passive, wimpy characters are uninteresting. -Plot events should happen for a reason. -Keep the story's intended viewpoint in mind. -Avoid using dialects unless you know what you're doing. -Look up any words or anything else you don't exactly know; don't assume you know. -Observe everything around you in life, and take notes. -Don't make irrelevant disasters happen to characters just for shock value or unexpected plot twists. -Allow time in which your characters can think after events. -Making characters or plot development obvious, easy to understand, is not only acceptable but good. Don't try to be too subtle. [I didn't necessarily agree.:] -Don't spend too much time being your own critic. -Let your characters feel as well as think. -Don't share your work with writers' clubs, especially if you have to read your story out loud. Most writers' clubs members are not trained editors and don't know what they're doing, and even if they do, can give conflicting opinions that confuse you. For the same reason, don't show your work with friends or family for opinions. -Don't "chase the market," i.e. look for what sells and write that. -Take maximum advantage of your existing plot ideas by looking for new ways they can serve plot development. -Don't annoy your editor by using improper manuscript format or submission methods.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lakshmi C

    The book is packed with sound advice for beginners but completing it is a challenge. The author has a tendency to ramble which makes the reader lose interest. His approach is rigid and restrictive which is a nightmare for writers who hate to plot their story in advance. When he mentions readers , he contradicts himself which confuses the beginner. His advice is not to write down to the reader, but he reminds us that the reader may be lazy or distracted. The tips which I did like are : " Don't forg The book is packed with sound advice for beginners but completing it is a challenge. The author has a tendency to ramble which makes the reader lose interest. His approach is rigid and restrictive which is a nightmare for writers who hate to plot their story in advance. When he mentions readers , he contradicts himself which confuses the beginner. His advice is not to write down to the reader, but he reminds us that the reader may be lazy or distracted. The tips which I did like are : " Don't forget sense impressions." " Don't ignore scene and structure." " Don't waste your plot ideas." " Don't have things happen for no reason." Even though the book has some useful advice there are other books which are more entertaining and provide thorough explanations.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Found myself excited to read the first few chapters....and then it went downhill. Didn't appreciate the "only action! get to the action!" mantra, Mr. Bickham's "my way or the highway" approach, or his prototype 'bad student' examples. The reason why I don't read most modern fiction is exactly what Mr. Bickham proposed - less contemplation, more action, and catering to a skimming public. If they want everything made obvious, with no mystery, why not let them read comic books instead of pretending Found myself excited to read the first few chapters....and then it went downhill. Didn't appreciate the "only action! get to the action!" mantra, Mr. Bickham's "my way or the highway" approach, or his prototype 'bad student' examples. The reason why I don't read most modern fiction is exactly what Mr. Bickham proposed - less contemplation, more action, and catering to a skimming public. If they want everything made obvious, with no mystery, why not let them read comic books instead of pretending that they read fiction?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bucket

    I gave this book what I like to call the "thorough skim," which means I spent a few hours with it, reading the parts that were of interest to me and skimming over the parts that weren't. There was some good stuff in here, but most of it was same-old-same-old: avoid crazy dialogue tags, don't use too much summary, etc. The book did what it claimed to, so I can't complain there. I guess I was just hoping for more insights. I gave this book what I like to call the "thorough skim," which means I spent a few hours with it, reading the parts that were of interest to me and skimming over the parts that weren't. There was some good stuff in here, but most of it was same-old-same-old: avoid crazy dialogue tags, don't use too much summary, etc. The book did what it claimed to, so I can't complain there. I guess I was just hoping for more insights.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dane Cobain

    Jack M. Bickham's handbook for fiction writers is widely acclaimed by critics and authors alike, and it's an interesting read for writers of all genres and disciplines, although it's certainly true that fiction writers will learn the most from it. Bickham is qualified to teach you, too - during his lifetime, he wrote 75 novels and worked as a professor. This isn't some wannabe telling you how to do it - this is a professional sharing expertise that he's learned along the way. Jack M. Bickham's handbook for fiction writers is widely acclaimed by critics and authors alike, and it's an interesting read for writers of all genres and disciplines, although it's certainly true that fiction writers will learn the most from it. Bickham is qualified to teach you, too - during his lifetime, he wrote 75 novels and worked as a professor. This isn't some wannabe telling you how to do it - this is a professional sharing expertise that he's learned along the way.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura Gilfillan

    A lot of basic writing advice, of what not to do, and what you should do instead. Like: don't write about wimps, don't use real people, don't describe sunsets, don't forget sense impressions, don't forget to let your characters think, and my favorite, don't wander around in a fog. I have to confess that I also got tempted to break some of these rules, but I guess it's good to know what I should avoid if I do so. A lot of basic writing advice, of what not to do, and what you should do instead. Like: don't write about wimps, don't use real people, don't describe sunsets, don't forget sense impressions, don't forget to let your characters think, and my favorite, don't wander around in a fog. I have to confess that I also got tempted to break some of these rules, but I guess it's good to know what I should avoid if I do so.

  20. 4 out of 5

    PoligirlReads

    Overall, this is was a useful book, but it's certainly quite dated. I found him to be stern, but honest in his assessments of common mistakes and helpful in his advice on how to correct them. The "don't give up" chapter was encouraging, but I do wonder how his advice would change, given this book was written in 1992. There have been so many changes in the industry, I'd like to see what an updated book would have looked like. Overall, this is was a useful book, but it's certainly quite dated. I found him to be stern, but honest in his assessments of common mistakes and helpful in his advice on how to correct them. The "don't give up" chapter was encouraging, but I do wonder how his advice would change, given this book was written in 1992. There have been so many changes in the industry, I'd like to see what an updated book would have looked like.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robert Wilkins

    As a guidebook for fiction, this one is wonderful - each of the common mistakes has a chapter, and every chapter is short, to the point, and written in a very friendly fashion that makes it enjoyable to go through. Along with the Strunk's Elements of Style, I'd recommend this book to anyone who's seriously considering getting into writing for a professional market. As a guidebook for fiction, this one is wonderful - each of the common mistakes has a chapter, and every chapter is short, to the point, and written in a very friendly fashion that makes it enjoyable to go through. Along with the Strunk's Elements of Style, I'd recommend this book to anyone who's seriously considering getting into writing for a professional market.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Jacobs

    Very useful book, but on it's own it wouldn't have taught me enough about the various elements of writing a good novel. It was a useful checklist after I had written my first novel to ensure I hadn't made certain mistakes, without rereading the other numerous books I read on writing that were all subject specific. Very useful book, but on it's own it wouldn't have taught me enough about the various elements of writing a good novel. It was a useful checklist after I had written my first novel to ensure I hadn't made certain mistakes, without rereading the other numerous books I read on writing that were all subject specific.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Patterson

    Brilliant book for writers. Bickham wrote Twister which was turned into a film. I'm not sure what else he's written but this is one of the most valuable of my how-to writing books. It is full of practical advice for writers. Brilliant book for writers. Bickham wrote Twister which was turned into a film. I'm not sure what else he's written but this is one of the most valuable of my how-to writing books. It is full of practical advice for writers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Jackson

    Jack Bickham has such a talent for getting across essential information in clear, easy-to-grasp terms. I'm adding it to my permanent reference shelf. Jack Bickham has such a talent for getting across essential information in clear, easy-to-grasp terms. I'm adding it to my permanent reference shelf.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cyn

    Good writing advice - suitable for any writer (either published or aspiring). Recommended.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

    interestingly opinionated and which seems to have the view that readers of books are morons and you need to follow certain 'guidelines' for success! i'll rework many points raised by others too... the neat thing that some have mentioned is how some of Bickham's suggestions is why a lot of people hate a lot of modern writing... more action! more thrills! everything obvious! --- motives that fit the individual never be subtle! throw in a problem every chapter or act of your story - seems rather manipulative interestingly opinionated and which seems to have the view that readers of books are morons and you need to follow certain 'guidelines' for success! i'll rework many points raised by others too... the neat thing that some have mentioned is how some of Bickham's suggestions is why a lot of people hate a lot of modern writing... more action! more thrills! everything obvious! --- motives that fit the individual never be subtle! throw in a problem every chapter or act of your story - seems rather manipulative, but it will work occasionally - oh what would Quinn Martin do? And would this fit in with forced plots, yet natural characterizations? and even start a book with some drama, a big change, a bigger threat in quiet parts of your story, figure out the emotional aspect - will it slow things down expanding on planning/motivation/reflection, or do you need to pare things down - people want action, not sherlock holmes figuring it all out at a desk with his pipe and cup of tea - tell a little - show a lot but above all make your character 'think', but not think way too much real life is bizarre, dull and non-sensible and confusing, make fiction way way way more logical than real life! in other words - things need to happen for a reason make an outline - you're not Stephen King stick to one viewpoint - unless you're Stephen King never make your characters have a lucky rabbits foot no adjectives no adverbs no tough guys no edgy gals but don't write about weaklings either! connect an event or person more than once in a story - recycle that person, build up some tension, mystery surprise, when they reappear, or build up to that event... make the ending satisfying --- an interesting peek into successful formulas that 'have' worked in the past for many but not gospel a good book for showing common mistakes though a rotten book for cookie-cutter guidelines

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Werneburg

    This gem of a book lives up to its title. With plenty of real-world illustrations it walks through an endless series of mistakes that most authors will recognize, and explains what to do about them. It really is that simple. The mini-chapters representing each mistake have titles like: "Don't Fail to Make the Viewpoint Clear" And subtitles to match: "...when you can keep your readers riveted on a single character and his or her problem." There are a lot of books for would-be authors that talk about This gem of a book lives up to its title. With plenty of real-world illustrations it walks through an endless series of mistakes that most authors will recognize, and explains what to do about them. It really is that simple. The mini-chapters representing each mistake have titles like: "Don't Fail to Make the Viewpoint Clear" And subtitles to match: "...when you can keep your readers riveted on a single character and his or her problem." There are a lot of books for would-be authors that talk about the process of developing a narrative, and rightly so. But this book is the kind of how-to that I think packs a lot of punch for anyone who's struggling. I first bought this book while living in Australia in 2001. It's 2021 and I read it again last year as I was having another go at my story at that time. In the thirty years since this was written we now have the Internet with its many web sites and forums and instructional videos. What sets this apart is that the content isn't written by random forum-goers or some crank with a video camera. It's written by someone who got 75 novels published.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rissa Renae

    Considering this book was over 20 years old when I picked it up, I'd say a good 2/3 of the ideas can still be applied to the current writing landscape. Creative techniques often don't stand the test of time as well as, say, techniques of building a house. In terms of building your novel, these are still some great points. I'm firmly in the camp that there are three writing styles (not prose styles). The 'Pantser' who writes as the ideas hit, the 'Plotter' who plans or plots out action and beats i Considering this book was over 20 years old when I picked it up, I'd say a good 2/3 of the ideas can still be applied to the current writing landscape. Creative techniques often don't stand the test of time as well as, say, techniques of building a house. In terms of building your novel, these are still some great points. I'm firmly in the camp that there are three writing styles (not prose styles). The 'Pantser' who writes as the ideas hit, the 'Plotter' who plans or plots out action and beats in their novel, and the 'Planster' who is a combo of both. These may be more recent authoring buckets, especially with the rise of NaNoWriMo. Mr. Bickham is more in the Plotter camp, so if you're a Plotter or a Planster this book is right up your alley. Myself being primarily a Pantser, some of the techniques were too restrictive for me, but there is still some great advice to be found within the pages.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Jack M. Bickham's short book (118 pages) about some of the most common mistakes in writing fiction offers some sound advice for writers. While the target audience is probably beginning writers, the book gives advice, and reminders for advanced writers, about such topics as structure, dialogue, viewpoint, and moving the story from scene to scene. He also addresses issues as dealing with criticism, working with an editor, and where to look for advice and direction. The book was published in 1992, Jack M. Bickham's short book (118 pages) about some of the most common mistakes in writing fiction offers some sound advice for writers. While the target audience is probably beginning writers, the book gives advice, and reminders for advanced writers, about such topics as structure, dialogue, viewpoint, and moving the story from scene to scene. He also addresses issues as dealing with criticism, working with an editor, and where to look for advice and direction. The book was published in 1992, pre-Internet days, so some chapters can be avoided such as manuscript preparation on a typewriter, printing, etc. Bickham, who was a professor at the University of Oklahoma, wrote more than 75 novels, some of which were turned into movies, and numerous articles on the craft of fiction. He died in 1997.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robert Day

    I think that this book deserves to be read by anyone writing or thinking about writing a novel. Even though it was written in 1992 the points are all still valid. Covered here is everything you need to know: plot, dialogue, characters and everything in-between. Not much detail - after all it's only 117 pages long, but there's more than enough to tell you how to cover every aspect of story writing. I mean, it doesn't go into punctuation or anything as low-level as that, but you went to school, righ I think that this book deserves to be read by anyone writing or thinking about writing a novel. Even though it was written in 1992 the points are all still valid. Covered here is everything you need to know: plot, dialogue, characters and everything in-between. Not much detail - after all it's only 117 pages long, but there's more than enough to tell you how to cover every aspect of story writing. I mean, it doesn't go into punctuation or anything as low-level as that, but you went to school, right?

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