The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction

One of Poets & Writers’ “Best Books for Writers”

“An invaluable book that will energize any writer’s imagination and help overcome any writer’s block.”

– Heidi W. Durrow, author of the New York Times bestseller The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction offers one-page excerpts from contemporary novels and stories, with short essays revealing the techniques used by the authors and exercises that allow anyone to use them in their own writing.

Excerpts are drawn from bestselling, award-winning literary authors such as T.C. Boyle, Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay, Marlon James, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Zadie Smith, and Jesmyn Ward and genre writers such as Gillian Flynn, William Gibson, Daniel José Older, and Jennifer Weiner.

Written in a personal, conversational style by Michael Noll, the teacher and writer behind the craft-of-writing blog Read to Write Stories, The Writer’s Field Guide brings to the page an approach that has been named a “Favorite Blog” by a literary agent in Publisher’s Weekly and is used as a resource in two dozen colleges, universities, and high schools around the country.

Available Now 

Buy it at your local bookstore, Amazon, and direct from the publisher


Exercises and excerpts that focus on common problem-areas for writers:

  • How to Start and Keep Writing
  • How to Make Setting Dramatic
  • How to Create Compelling Characters
  • How to Write Scenes
  • How to Make Dialogue Snap
  • How to Move Through Time and Space
  • How to Create Structure
  • How to Drive Plot Forward
  • How to Develop Your Prose Style
  • How to Put It All Together on Page One

Craft essays that draw on Noll’s experience as a teacher and writer who has moved from being a curious reader on a Kansas hog farm to attending a MFA program and serving as the writer-in-residence at a prestigious literary center to publishing short stories widely and teaching and organizing writing workshops in Austin, New Mexico, and online.

Literary selections from wide-ranging work by a diverse selection of the most exciting authors publishing today.

One-page excerpts from stories and novels that focus on particular aspects of story craft and reveal the mechanics behind the magic of great fiction.

What People Are Saying about the Book 

One of Poets & Writers“Best Books for Writers”

“The night of Michael Noll’s BookPeople reading, the seating ran out quickly. Then the standing room ran out. Soon, people were all the way into the children’s section. Finally, all of Noll’s books ran out. It was a madness worthy of an established literary icon — which seems to be Noll’s future. For now, he’s the new author with the entire city behind him.”–Austin Chronicle

“10 Great Reads by Austin Authors for 2018”–Austin Monthly

“Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2018”–Big Other

“There comes a time in every writer’s education when they realize they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. At this point, a writer can throw in the towel, take out student loans for another round of schooling, or discover a brilliant book like Michael Noll’s The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction. With patience, good humor, and fortitude, Noll provides a field manual for taking fiction apart and putting it back together again, gaining technical know-how and inspiration along the way. An indispensable book that belongs on every serious writer’s desk.”

Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Elle Magazine Fiction Book of the Year Close Your Eyes

“Because there’s less theory and more practice, we all benefit. “Tell me a story,” he quotes one of his former instructors urging, which seems simplistic until you look at how often we avoid doing just that. A terrific, truly curious book about the humbling practice of writing fiction.”  

Scott Blackwood, author of Pen USA Award for Fiction winner See How Small

“For years, Michael Noll’s Read to Write Stories blog has been one of my favorite resources, period. Now, at last, along comes his The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction, in which reading and writing are rightly treated as inextricable, such that every sharp insight and lively provocation is rooted in the terra firma of great writing. Indeed, its primary text excerpts are impeccable, but it is also Noll’s own intuition, reading acumen, and willingness to push beyond the obvious that ultimately make these exercises so worthwhile, and the book a gem.”

Tim Horvath, author of Understories and winner of the Raymond Carver Short Story Award

About the Author

Michael Noll is a writer, teacher, and Program Director at the Writers’ League of Texas. His short stories have been published widely, including in The Best American Mystery Stories anthology and, most recently, in Crazyhorse. He has taught for more than a decade at the university level and in independent classes in Austin, New Mexico, and online. At Read to Write Stories, he has interviewed more than 150 authors about the craft behind the work, a wealth of experience that informs The Writer’s Field Guide. He has also interviewed the actor Chris Cooper for the PBS program OnStory and Philadelphia screenwriter Ron Nyswaner for OnStory. Every month he moderates a series of panel conversations on writing and publishing for the Writers’ League of Texas Podcast.

To contact Michael: michaelnoll1 at gmail dot com

Events and Appearances

BookPeople / Austin, TX / March 1, 7 pm: Book launch for The Writer’s Field Guide, featuring special guest Bret Anthony Johnston

AWP Conference / Tampa, FL / March 9, 10:30 am: Cracking the Code of Great Fiction (at the A Strange Object table, 1708)

AWP Conference / Tampa, FL / March 9, 7 pm: A Night of Brief Readings (and party!) with A Strange Object + McSweeney’s + Sequential Artists Workshop at Gram’s Place (a Gram Parsons-themed treehouse and bar!).

Brazos Bookstore / Houston, TX / March 22, 7 pm: Reading/event for The Writer’s Field Guide, featuring special guest Chris Cander

Interabang Book / Dallas, TX / March 26, 7 pm: Reading/event for The Writer’s Field Guide, featuring special guest Tex Thompson

The Craft + Business of Writing with WLT / March 31, 11 am: Ben F. McDonald Public Library, Corpus Christi, TX

Writing On the Air Radio Program / KOOP 91.7 FM Austin, TX / April 4, 6 pm: Appearing live in conversation with host Martha Louise Hunter

Heart of Texas Chapter Sisters in Crime / Cafe Express, Austin, TX / April 8, 2:30 pm: Talking craft with the Austin chapter of the national crime-writing organization

American Short Fiction Presents: Austin Literaoke! / April 9 / 7 pm: The Butterfly Bar, Austin, TX

Special Presentation: The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of FictionApril 14, 2:30 pm: ACC Riverside, Austin, TX

Presentation on Publishing, National Book Awards Festival / April 17, 12:30 pm: Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX

Writefest / Saturday, May 5 / all day: Winter Street Studios, Houston, TX

Sentence Level Strategies for Big Story Problems / Wednesday, May 9 / 6:30 pm: The Writing Barn, Austin, TX

Creatives Meet Business Experience / Thursday, September 20 / 2:45 pm: Austin, TX

East Texas Writers Association Conference / Saturday, September 22: Longview, TX

Texas Book Festival / Saturday, October 27-28: Austin TX

NaNoWriMo Special Presentation / Thursday, November 1: BookPeople, Austin, TX

The Craft + Business of Writing with WLT / Saturday, November 3: Midland, TX

The Craft + Business of Writing with WLT / Saturday, December 15: El Paso, TX

Author Interviews

For four years, Michael has interviewed authors about their process and techniques. To read more than 150 interviews, click here.

Free Online Exercises

To find more than 200 exercises that Michael has created for this blog, based on novels, short stories, memoirs, and essays, click here.

Latest Exercises and Interviews

To read Michael’s latest exercises and author interviews, click here. His interview with Jeffrey Renard Allen was quoted by Charles Johnson in the introduction to the reissue of Allen’s debut novel Rails Under My Back.

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