Looking for Practical Exercises for Your Fiction Writing Class?

14 Aug

If you’re an instructor in a fiction writing class, you probably have moments where you’re trying to explain how good dialogue works—or plot or character building or descriptions of setting—but don’t have the words. Or, if you’re a student, you leave class inspired by something your teacher said, but when you sit down, you can’t make the leap between brilliant classroom insight and the blinking cursor on the computer screen. If this is you, check out the exercises at Read to Write Stories.

Exercises get a bad name because too many ask you to write about something you don’t care about. These exercises, however, help you borrow strategies from great books and use them in your own writing. You’ll find more than 150 exercises based on work by (and interviews with) authors such as Charles Baxter, Aliete de Bodard, Alexander Chee, Natasha Deón, Brian Evenson, Ru Freeman, Roxane Gay, Marlon James, Kiese Laymon, Daniel José Older, George Saunders, and Laura van den Berg.

“An indispensable book that belongs on every serious writer’s desk.” —Amanda Eyre Ward

Each exercise contains a short excerpt from a novel or story (and a few essays and memoirs), a discussion of the craft within it, and an exercise for using that craft in your own writing. Interviews focus on the craft challenges the authors faced and overcame. The site is used by dozens of writing classes around the country.

If you want something to carry in your backpack, you can now buy The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction, a collection of all-new exercises based on 40 one-page excerpts from literary writers (Teju Cole), fabulists (Karen Russell), prose stylists (Zadie Smith), cyberpunk authors (William Gibson), crime writers (Joe R. Lansdale), women’s fiction authors (Jennifer Weiner), young adult (Benjamin Alire Sáenz), story writers (Elizabeth McCracken), and straight-up geniuses (Jesmyn Ward).

Poets & Writers named the book one of its “Best Books for Writers.” You can find it at your local bookstore and at Amazon.


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