Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling
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Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling

4.42 of 5 stars 4.42  ·  rating details  ·  179 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Capture the minds, hearts, and imaginations of 21st century readers!Whether you're a commercial storyteller or a literary novelist, whether your goal is to write a best-selling novel or captivate readers with a satisfying, beautifully written story, the key to success is the same: high-impact fiction. "Writing 21st Century Fiction" will help you write a novel for today's r...more
Paperback, 217 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Writer's Digest Books (first published September 1st 2012)
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Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald MaassThe Writer's Idea Book by Jack HeffronWriter & Roleplayer Primers by Angeli PidcockA Complete "How To" Guide for Rookie Writers by Robin  Murphy101 Super-Detailed Writing Prompts by Tal Valante
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1st out of 17 books — 8 voters
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Jonathan Peto
Those suck-ups who rate this book a 5 are obviously hoping to get on Donald Maass’ good side. (He heads a big literary agency in New York.) The book is a 4, and mainly because of the questions at the end of each chapter. The text contains some wisdom, but I don’t honestly believe it will benefit writers who have not already read about the topics in more detail elsewhere. If you have, you’ll enjoy the review and the fresh examples - lots of contemporary ones. Rereading about topics such as charac...more
Cindy Dees
I would rank this book up with STORY by Robert McKee as one of the most intelligent books ever written about writing fiction. And frankly, this book is more accessible than McKee's textbook.

I've always loved Maass's writing how-to materials, and this was no disappointment. However, I have published 45 novels and taught novel writing for years, and this book challenged even me to absorb the full message within it. It is so dense-packed with ideas and expressed so deeply that I literally had to re...more
Chris Blake
One of my favorite books on the craft of fiction is literary agent Donald Maass’s classic, “Writing the Breakout Novel.” Maass followed that up with “The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great.” His latest work, “Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling,” focuses on what it takes to write high-impact fiction in today’s genre-driven age.

Maass decided to write the book after he noticed commercial, genre fiction dominated T...more
Vaughn Roycroft
The first time I read this book I skimmed over the questions at the end of each segment (they really require deep thought, and the time and space for it), and I still found it quite useful in wrapping my head around where I wanted my work to go. I knew I'd have to revisit it before I went back to the revision drawing board, and this time I focused on the questions. I just finished, and it has catapulted my outlook on my writing life and the work itself into a whole new light (and I've been at th...more
Andrew Crofflard
Oct 29, 2012 Andrew Crofflard rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Intermediate writers
Let's face it there a lot of books about writing and most say the same thing. What was refreshing about this book seemed to me that it was more advanced than most and took off where most stopped.

What was most interesting for me was the concept that to be engaging the writing must be deeply personal. What I found most interesting about his writing is that it did that. I'm not sure why I didn't imagine that to become a true literary artist the process should be any different from that of other for...more
Jodi McIsaac
I always find Donald Maass' books on writing enormously helpful, and this book was no exception. Although some of the content seemed to be similar to his book The Fire in Fiction, the sections on deepening the emotional intensity were excellent (and much needed at this stage in my current work-in-progress!). I enjoy the exercises/questions he gives at the end of each chapter--I don't sit down and implement them all, but they are certainly good food for thought, especially if you have a scene tha...more
Denna M. Davis
I grabbed this book because it was recommended reading for the upcoming workshop I'll be attending with the author, Donald Maass, as its host (Break Out Novel Initiative-BONI). After reading Writing the Breakout Novel last year, nearly a year ago actually, I find that Don still has the ability to shake my resolve as an author. This is not your average advice. This is a gut-check that makes you see yourself: pimples, laziness, clichés and all.

Thankfully, I know that I'm in this writing business f...more
Sometimes one more book can be one book to many.
In its favour, in a niche that is often populated my many cookie-cutter help guides, this book does cover new and different territory. Much of what is presented is worth consideration and may prove enlightening and help aspiring writers push their work to a better level.

After Larry Brooks book, I was inspired, clear of mind and purpose. However, after this book, my mind is cluttered and confidence is shot.

While Donald Maas raises some interesting p...more
Shaun Ryan
Maass has done it again. Hands-down the best book on writing I've read.

Update: Upon second reading, yup, still the best book on writing novels I've read.
Sydney Avey
Mr. Maass had me from chapter one when he suggested that writers tear down the wall between genre and literary fiction. Great stories told with beautiful writing is how he puts it. That is what I love to read and what I aim for in my writing. I wanted to cry and kiss him by the time I finished Chapter One. (Would this be characterized as warm writing Mr. Maass?)

The writing prompts are a little overwhelming, like a ten pound box of chocolates, Used judiciously they can't help but improve your wri...more
Jan 30, 2014 Brittany rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Writers with a finished or partially finished manuscript
How I Came To Read This Book: I was researching some good, more recent writing tomes and this one is pretty high-ranked on Goodreads, so I gave it a whirl.

The Plot: Essentially Donald Maass is deconstructing what makes runaway bestsellers in today's literary world what they are. He notes early on that many of today's top books defy genre but still have commonalities, namely by tapping into the toolbox of high impact storytelling techniques. Each of those general techniques (and sub-activities)...more
Ann Godridge
It starts well, and some of the chapters make a lot of sense. Especially when he is talking about genre, and the need to break some of the rules, and stressing authenticity.

But then the whole thing is let down by some of the exercises.

"What's a foundational attribute of your protagonist? Create an odd tic or habit that implies the opposite. Add six times. Voila, a quirk!"

That seems to me to be pretty much the opposite of seeking emotional authenticity, and we are back into writing by numbers t...more
Robin Spano
A great premise, lots of value, but not as excellent as I thought it would be diving in. The book promises a journey into the center of yourself, but I felt like it stayed at surface level for most of the pages.

I'm glad I read this book, and I will save the checklists to apply to my manuscript once I have a completed first draft. But not the magic it promises in the introduction.
Stina Lindenblatt
This is easily the best Donald Maass book that he's written. If you're looking for easy, then don't bother with this book. Donald loves to challenge writers to become great writers, and this book is no exception. If you apply his techniques to your writing, you will be sweating (and cursing). It's that hard--but worth it.
Brent Weeks
Don's my agent. I'm a New York Times best selling novelist already. This book is making my next book better. Lots better.
This isn't a How-To-Write-a-Best-Seller paint-by-numbers. This is a book that asks YOU questions that make YOU dig deep to write the best book you can, if you're willing to do the work.
Absolutely great read. Very inspiring. I am ready to apply all that he says to my WIP. He really challenges us writers to go way beyond our comfort levels...and I agree that it probably is necessary. A must read.
Lee Thompson
Jan 09, 2013 Lee Thompson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Serious writers
This is a book I'm going to revisit every time I write a new novel. Simply brilliant.
Sebastien Castell
Nov 18, 2013 Sebastien Castell rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Published authors
Shelves: writing
An insightful exploration of modern fiction well-suited to experienced writers.

There are no end of books on fiction writing in print and online full of useful advice for the beginning writer. If you want to learn how to develop a three-act plot, construct scenes, develop protagonists, select point of view, and enhance scene description, you can pick up any of a hundred books that will get you started. What's harder to find is a book that gives you insight into ways to go past the basics. With Wr...more
I loved Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and decided to give this book a try. It's good but it didn't blow me away like the workbook did. There are a ridiculous amount of questions at the end of each chapter that are intended to improve your writing, but you'd create a giant mess of a novel if you applied every single question to your own work. Like many other reviewers said, I'd suggest only using several of the questions, ones that stick out and really apply to what you're writing. H...more
Rod Raglin
Ever wonder why people who write 'how to write fiction books' don't write fiction? Me too.

This latest offering from non-fiction author and literary agent/agency, Donald Maass, basically talks about the melding of literary and genre writing, or beautifully written, character driven novels with page-turning, plot driven novels, to create what he calls literary/commercial fiction.

Maas liberally quotes (about a quarter of the book) from his favorite examples. Another big chunk of pages is taken up...more
This book is fascinating. Amazing. Inspiring.

Books giving tips or telling writers how to write can really be hit or miss. Either they sound pretentious or the tips are common knowledge for many people.

This book, however, does neither.

It takes techniques and lays them out for the writer to observe. It offers suggestions in no right or wrong way, and gives inspiration where there perhaps was none before. It offers ways to get around blocks and confusion - questions to ask yourself when writing a...more
Margo Berendsen
Wow!!! I didn't think this could be as good as his last book, The Fire in Fiction, but it is EVEN better.

So many excellent points, powerful examples, and helpful checklists. Will write more details as soon as finish implementing all the great things I learned in my current manuscript!
Korey Ward
This book had some good ideas in it. I give it a 3 star because the book read like a text book to me, and it seemed like it took to long to get to the point. The book was much longer than it had to be. Now that's just my opinion. I did however, liked the use of examples from other books used in there to show what the author was trying to convey.
Jennie Coughlin
I've been waiting for this book to come out since I first heard about it earlier this year, and Maass didn't disappoint. After devouring the book the day I got it, I rethought the entire second half of my next novel and rewrote big chunks of it — more than 13,000 words in two days with more to come. Maass knows his stuff and uses examples to drive home his points about what it takes to lift books from ordinary to extraordinary — what he calls high impact.

If you're a fiction writer, you need to...more
While there are a few overlapping examples also in Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction, there are enough new insights and exercises that this how-to book is every bit as helpful as Maass's earlier writing craft books.
If you're looking for help in writing a meaningful novel, one that can stand out above the herd, this book will answer your hopes. You'll find content that helps you focus upon those techniques that enrich your thought process and guide you to more effective writing.
Marcy Kennedy
I pre-ordered this book after hearing Donald Maass speak at the Writer's Digest conference in New York this past January. It was worth the wait.

This isn't a craft book per say. It's also not for beginners. You can write perfectly decent fiction without ever reading this book, but if you read it, it'll help you take your work to the next level by showing you how to add emotional depth.

Dozens of application questions follow each chapter. While these can add amazing value, I think we have to be car...more
Chris Cook
This is a good book, filled with lots of advice for how to make a good book great by 21st century standards. In addition to explaining some of the concepts, Maass comes up with a list for each chapter of various exercises to do to make your own fiction great. They're good exercises, but they tend to seem overwhelming. Definitely, this is a book to digest slowly, and implement into your own writing slowly, perhaps over the course of several of your own books. I think if an author tried to impleme...more
I loved this book and recommend it highly to anyone who is working on a novel. As promised by the subtitle, High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling, Donald Maass offers a discussion of various elements of writing that is both practical and inspiring. The end of each chapter includes a set of writing tools -- several sets of questions for writers to ask about their own manuscripts -- which can be returned to again and again. A writing guide that is quick to read, but can also be savor...more
Henry McLaughlin
In this book, Donald Maass challenges us to create stories that transcend genre, to deliver characters who are more real than real people, and to show the world in new ways. His prompts and questions call us to dig deeper into each aspect of story and pull out more emotion, more tension, more of our characters and our story world. Highly recommend this book.
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“When a hot trend turns into a sub-category, new strictures arise along with it. Tropes turn into shortcuts, character paradigms become cardboard cutouts. Publishing pulls the bandwagon, true enough, but when feel-alike fiction floods the market its impact declines because it is starved of what makes fiction rich, surprising, moving, and masterful.” 1 likes
“For me, where genre ends and literature begins doesn’t matter. What matters is whether a given novel hits me with high impact. If it does, it probably is fulfilling the purpose of fiction. It has drawn me into a story world, held me captive, taken me on a journey with characters like none I’ve ever met, revealed truths I’ve somehow always known and insights that rock my brain. It’s filled me with awe, which is to say it’s made me see the familiar in a wholly new way and made the unfamiliar a foundational part of me. It both entertains and matters. It both captures our age and becomes timelessly great. It does all that with the sturdy tools of story and the flair of narrative art.” 0 likes
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