Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review: The Fiction Writer's Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf

The Fiction Writer's Handbook
by Shelly Lowenkopf
Publisher: White Whisker Books, November 16, 2012
Available in: Print, Kindle, and Nook  336 pages

I have been dreaming of reference books like this one ever since I was first introduced to the concept of hyperlinked text.  The fact that this is all about fiction writing just puts the purrrr in perfect.

The Fiction Writer's Handbook is organized like a dictionary or encyclopedia with an entry for every term and concept used by writers and editors and publishers of fiction.  And every time a term with an entry is used inside another entry it is linked back to its own entry.  There is also an alphabetized hyper-linked list of the entries accessed via the table of contents so you can easily find your way back to one you surfed away from while following links.  An entry can be from a sentence or two long up to several pages.

Lowenkopf has compiled an extensive toolkit for writers that incorporates his own decades of experience in the field as reader, writer, and editor, of fiction and teacher of fiction writing at the college level.  After decades of collecting and reading books on fiction writing I had long lost the wonder and hope that once colored my initial expectations with each encounter of a new how-to-write-fiction volume.  It is hard to surprise me with new information tho occasionally I can still be wowed by a new insight created by a new perspective on familiar facts and concepts.  But both have happened repeatedly as I delve deeper into the rich veins of information in this book.

Of course this could be because I focused on areas I was currently obsessing on because of issues I was having with my storyworld as I've discussed here frequently--the difficulty in creating antagonists or villains and in creating and keeping conflict active so the story doesn't fizzle.  Conflict is something I avoid in real life but to avoid it as the storyteller is the kiss of death for the story.

This isn't a new concept for me but something about Lowenkopf's presentation--with the terms all so carefully defined and expanded upon in their own entries and the ease of clicking back and forth between the entries that define a term and those that expound upon a concept--has brought the old info into focus in a new way such that I feel a dawning confidence that I now comprehend it well enough to apply it to my own stories.

This is one ebook that will not sit in my archives gathering pixel dust.

From the Publishers:

The Fiction Writer's Handbook is the definitive volume to explain the words and phrases that writers and editors use when they talk about a work. In the highly competitive publishing world, today's writers need to stay ahead of the competition and make every sentence count. This book will help new writers who need an understanding of the writing process, and for seasoned writers, it is a powerful tool.

What they are saying:

"Knowing how editors choose one work over so many others would give any writer an advantage. To that end, Lowenkopf, a longtime writer, editor, and educator, delivers the fiction-writing guide he has always longed for-one that can be applied to the practical goal of every aspiring writer: getting published... VERDICT: An invaluable insider's take on what editors look for when sifting through the slush pile." -Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Library Journal

"The effect is also similar to falling down a rabbit hole. To put it plainly, it's a tool that anyone who loves to learn more about the craft of writing won't be able to put down, an indispensable addition to any writer's library." --Marc Schuster, Small Press Reviews

"Shelly Lowenkopf has cooked up literary gumbo for all writers. Once you've sampled it, you won't be able to stop coming back for more." -Ehrich Van Lowe, author of bestseller Boyfriend From Hell

"It's encyclopedic in its erudition, yet as practical as a toolbox. It's also the masterwork of a brilliant mind, which has devoted itself to its subject and its students. Finally, as Sinatra might put it, it's simply a kick in the pants." -Gerald Locklin, poet 
 "The Fiction Writer's Handbook is one of those rare reading experiences-insightful, unusually useful, and wise." -Gayle Lynds, author of bestseller The Book of Spies



Shelly Lowenkopf taught in the University of Southern California's Master of Professional Writing Program for 34 years, has taught at the annual Santa Barbara Writer's Conference since 1980, and has been guest lecturer in many schools and conferences. He is currently Visiting Professor at the College of Creative Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, with classes in noir fiction, the modern short story, genre fiction, and developing a literary voice. Lowenkopf has served as editorial director for literary, general trade, mass market, and scholarly book publishers, seeing over 500 books through the editorial and production process. His own short fiction has appeared widely in the literary press.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lowenkopf
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shelly.lowenkopf





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