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am 8. Juni 1996
John Gardner has created an excellent resource for aspiring fiction writers who want to know how to write well. Gardner is direct in his tone, providing his readers with upfront and honest advice about what makes good fiction writing.

Gardner describes fiction as a dream world into which the writer takes the reader. His ultimate advice is to always consider the flow of the dream, and to be wary of any pitfall that might awake the reader from the story. He discusses such issues as style, grammar, plotting, and how they are necessary and contribute to excellent fiction writing.

The book closes with a series of exercises, a set for groups and a set for individuals, that provide an excellent jumping point for developing the superior writing skills that Gardner tries to teach.

Gardner's ideas are important considerations for the beginning writer, and important refreshers for the established writer. If you want to learn how to write fiction, but only want to buy one book on how to write, this is the one.
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am 16. Februar 2000
Okay, first the negatives. Mr. Gardner is (was) a hard-core literary snob. He has no use for 'pornography', horror, science fiction, romance, or anything like that, and at times seems to view the whole purpose of writing as more an extension of the practice of philosophy than as either an art or a craft.
However, within that context he still has a lot of good advice that any writer, including what Gardner would describe as a 'trash' writer, would do well to consider. His chapters on fiction as the art of producing a credible dream-like state in the reader are right on target, and his discussion of the roots of various types of fiction (the short story, the folkloric tale, etc.) are highly edifying. His Helen of Troy example of step-by-step story building could be used to add depth and complexity to even the most straightforward of genre tales.
Overall, I must give hearty approval to this book, even though I feel sure that the author would not give hearty approval to me!
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am 13. Juli 1998
As a writing instructor and literary agent, I am a regular visitor to writing reference sections. John Gardner's book is sometimes hard to read and follow, but it does explain the basics. And I haven't found any other writing reference book that discusses psychic distance (a very important beginner concept, *not* ESP!) and word rhythms (an advanced concept) quite as well as this one does. This should probably be the third or fourth book a writer should buy, after Stein on Writing, Getting the Words Right, and perhaps Valerie Storey's The Essential Guide for New Writers.
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am 3. Juni 1999
My summary pretty much says it all; no fiction writer should be without this book. I first read it almost 20 years ago, and every few years I re-read it to refresh myself. It offers both mentally stimulating exercises, as well as clear rules for writers to follow. For aspiring fiction writers who heed its wisdom, this book gives you one of the best gifts imaginable: it makes you *think* like a great writer as you sit down to put words to paper. (In addition, I recommend Gardner's "The Art of the Novel" as well.)
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am 16. September 1998
After reading many of John Gardner's works of fiction, I happened upon this book in a used bookstore and bought it without only a moment's hesitation. I paused because, before this book, I had not found a writer who could effectively write about the process of writing in a way that was encouraging and honest. This book has proven to be far more than I had expected, and, like Gardner's other work, it was completely satisfying.
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am 5. Juni 2000
This is no easy read (especially for a non-native speaker like me), but it's worth the troubles. As some other reviewer mentioned the language doesn't really flow, but this in part due to the deepness of thought contained in each paragraph. You can't just scan this book in some hours (like other books on creative writing I've skimmed through); only by reading carefully and slowly (as I was obliged to by my lack of English fluency...) you will enjoy Gardner's artistic sensitivity. All right, he is a literary snob as someone wrote - but there are too many others who make art look like something that can easily be described with some simple recipes. Gardner's true love for literature shows in every sentence and it's probably exactly his meaning of literary "truth" that makes him difficult to read sometimes. Other books I've read on the topic left me with a feeling of oversimplification, of missing the point by showing just the surface of the literary process. "The art of fiction" provides what its title promisses: an inspiring introduction to the ART of WRITING. And this means that this is neither another book on the theory of literature nor some Reader's-Digest-like "How to write a novel in ten steps" but a book on the THEORY of WRITING. I do not know of any other book that shows the literary process in such a sensitive way. If you're offended by the word theory, know that the exercices at the end of the book are extremely helpful and intelligent. They shed light on practical AND conceptual problems (and possibilities!) you maybe wouldn't have thought of without doing them. Great book.
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am 10. Februar 2000
This book contained some fascinating insights into the art of writing fiction, but frankly, I thought it was written very poorly(!). I did not flow at all and read much like some of the worst textbooks I've seen. He obviously has read a wide variety of books, but he assumes the reader is familiar with them.
I think this may be a good book for English majors or experienced writers, but not for young writers. For us young and inexperienced writers, he talks above our heads.
Even the style can scare a person away. He writes in the style of John Smith and others who could fit maybe one paragraph on a page. It's just not conducive to digesting the material.
In short, if you're a young writer, go trying "Writing Fiction Step By Step" by Josip Novakovich or something like that. But experienced writers, you may enjoy this.
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am 2. Mai 2000
It is true that this book should perhaps not have been entitled, "Notes on Craft for Young Writers." There is meat enough here to engage the full intellectual appetite of a professor of literary criticism. On the other hand, there's also a lot for the young and inexperienced by way of direction. If the instruction is sometimes abstract, it always points a direction by example and suggested reading. I don't think Gardner is a literary "snob". He is straightforward at the beginning about his target audience. It doesn't include pornographers, but he gives several examples of his precepts from many other genres, including science fiction. I suppose there are books out there for pornographers if they need them. Gardner is trying to nurture the next Dostoyevski.
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Like one of the other reviewers, I came to this book as a devotee of Gardner's fictional works. Other reviewers who complain that Gardner is exacting, demanding, and challenging are correct. Yet these traits enhance rather than detract from the work. I believe that Gardner is correct in stating that excellent writing is difficult to achieve. As for the many literary references, I felt not discouraged, but encouraged to sample unfamiliar authors and improve my own sensibilities. In sum, Gardner has inspired me to begin my first novel, and I am certain that I will find his "writing bible" indispensible.
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am 13. März 2000
I've been reading books on writing fiction lately, after 20 years as a relatively successful non-fiction writer with my writing in publications like Writer's Digest, Success, Omni, Reader's Digest..
Frankly, I picked up this book over ten years earlier. And it was, I now realize, so dry, boring and difficult to get through that I put off my novel writing for years. Beware!
Since then, I've read some great books on writing-- Christopher Vogler's THE WRITER's Journey, and Robert McKee's STORY STRUCTURE.
I breezed through these, marking them up like crazy because of all the good ideas.
I told a literary friend of mine about the books I'd been reading and he pooh-poohed them, insisting that Gardner's was the "real thing."
So I went back and revisited it. I found it as turgid as the first time. Now, you may think I am some kind of airhead who doesn't do deep. But I am one of the few who actually finished reading Foucault's Pendulum, and have recently finished Ken Wilber's Marriage of Sense and Spirit-- a discussion of postmodernist scientific models and paradigms, as well as the journals in brain research I usually read for my profession I can read dense, difficult material!
Bottom line: I'd hate to see this book turn someone off to writing when there are some great books out there. Maybe I'll revisit this one in a year or two.
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