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You Can't Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction--From Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between
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You Can't Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction--From Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  172 ratings  ·  27 reviews
From rags-to-riches-to-rags tell-alls to personal health sagas to literary journalism everyone seems to want to try their hand at creative nonfiction. Now, Lee Gutkind, the go-to expert for all things creative nonfiction, taps into one of the fastest-growing genres with this new writing guide. Frank and to-the-point, with depth and clarity, Gutkind describes and illustrate...more
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Published January 1st 2012 by Da Capo Press
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(showing 1-30 of 563)
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Olga Godim
This is a textbook on writing non-fiction, and as such it shouldn’t be able to compete with fiction. But for me, it did. Not only it competed but it also won the competition. Go figure!
I borrowed three books from the library at the same time: a selection of literary short stories, a fantasy novel by a well-known writer, and this book. I started with the short stories and couldn’t proceed past the story #2; it was just too dull and barren of action. Next I opened the fantasy novel. It was OK [I w...more
Jan Priddy
Oct 14, 2012 Jan Priddy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
This a how-to book by the “godfather of nonfiction.” Illuminated by long excerpts from strong creative nonfiction, Gutkind’s book manages to do what it claims to do: explain what creative nonfiction is and how to write it well. Gutkind promotes the narrative as the anchoring and most critical strength of creative nonfiction. Write scenes, he insists and the shows how this is done. It helps to discover that what Gutkind wants in an essay is precisely what a fiction-writer wants in a story. And it...more
Maria
Easy-to-read, clear book on writing literary essays and imaginative nonfiction. The author peers into the bones under bestsellers such as Rebecca Skloot's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief" and the work Dave Eggers. His goal is to move writers from dry facts and excessive restraint, into a more imaginative treatment of true-life writing.

Gutkind follows his own rules by including anecdotes and interesting stories from forty years as a professor and writing i...more
Sandee Ferman
I found it hard to read, and at the same time easy to read.

Difficult, because even though it's liberally sprinkled with engaging essays, there's enough "I told you so" in there to take away one star in the rating. Some pedantry gets in the way, but not much until the last chapter when Gutkind goes on for pages about getting an MFA in creative nonfiction. An MFA. Seriously? I didn't think the book was geared toward academic degree wannabes (and it isn't). That chapter could have been eliminated w...more
Karen
I enjoyed the book for the most part. I just have a personal bugaboo about authors referencing their own work too heavily. For me, it sounds pretentious and self-agrandizing. I admire Mr. Gutkind and his work, particularly with Creative Nonfiction Magazine. I would have enjoyed more writing samples from other authors (which does happen more frequently in the second part of the book), and less casual references to himself.
There were a few scenes that I thought read very differently than the conc...more
Brandylien
I was actually taking notes from this book, which is saying a lot, because I've read so many books on writing (to keep the advice and "rules" fresh in my mind), and mostly I don't learn anything new really. But what Gutkind, the "Godfather of Creative Nonfiction," has put forth in this book are some really useful techniques and strategies to fine-tune your creative nonfiction piece. One in particular was to whip out the old highlighter. I haven't used one of those in a decade, but I happily trot...more
Mediaman
This is a good book that helps the nonfiction writer with practical advice. It's almost like a textbook in how to write, with a few practical exercises. The problem with the book is that much of the material is not developed in detail--it's more of an outline and almost could be titled "Creative Nonfiction for Dummies." Good points are made but need much more explanation and many more examples. The author tends to only give one example when a big point is made but for a major principle in writin...more
Erika Dreifus
FIVE THINGS I LIKE ABOUT TWO BOOKS

By Erika Dreifus

‘Tis the season to focus on nonfiction. For me, anyway. As I struggle with essays of various stripes (and lengths), I’m infused with ideas and lessons gleaned from two new books: Lee Gutkind’s YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION FROM MEMOIR TO LITERARY JOURNALISM AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN (Da Capo Press/Lifelong Books, Paperback, $16.00 US) and THE ROSE METAL PRESS FIELD GUIDE TO WRITING FLASH NONFICTIO...more
Leanne Shirtliffe
I enjoyed this book for several reasons: (1) Gutkind's advice was practical and helpful. I feel like I became a better reader by seeing the relationship between scenes and information through his examples and his highlights. If I become a better reader, I become a better writer. (2) The sample essays are fantastic. They are diverse, and I appreciated reading them in their entirety. (3) I really enjoyed the section on immersion nonfiction. I now want to immerse myself in something that is not rel...more
Asenath
Great read. The first part is very informative about the history and development of the genre. The second part is more of a workbook, complete with examples and exercises. I learned quite a bit, and also found some great stories and excerpts to share with my classes.
Kathy D
When you can read a how to book on writing - and can't put it down you know you have a keeper. It's right up there with Bird by Bird and all of Natalie Goldberg's work. I learned more about CNF reading this than an entire semester on it on college.
Rita Ackerman
Lee Gutkind was one of the authors I heard speak at the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writer's Conference at ASU a couple of weeks ago. He is inspiring and gritty with what it takes to write creative nonfiction whether it be memoir or a book or article on something of importance to the writer.

There are exercises throughout the book which I ignored on the first read-through knowing I would read the book again, more slowly. Which is exactly what the author suggests at the end of the book.

A must re...more
David
Nonfiction is a huge category of literature. Philosophy, poetry, everything that is part of a culture from fairy tales to the holy books of the great religions is nonfiction. What makes it different from the fiction category is that the quotations should be accurate to what was said, the chronology should be verifiable against facts, and the fundamental rule is the title of this book You Can't Make This Stuff Up.

I am picky about what books become a part of my personal collection, and this is one...more
Hanje Richards
Excellent book on writing Creative Nonfiction, by the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine.

I would recommend this to anyone who is writing creative nonfiction. This definitely covered topics I haven't seen discussed in other writing books. Very readable. Lots of tips and exercises.

I felt like Lee Gutkind was talking directly to me. He continued to address issues that I have been wrestling with in my memoir writing.

Not the first book I have read by Lee Gutkind and I suspect it will...more
Kristina
Craft text for my creative nonfiction writing class. Lots of good pointers on how to write creative nonfiction.
Donna
This is a good book to give writers an overview of the issues related to writing creative nonfiction. There are exercises and load of examples to reinforce the ideas. As a former journalist, I'm not sure I really learned anything new but it was a good refresher and for a new writer I imagine it could be extremely helpful since it offers comprehensive cover of the topic.
Avantika Mehta
You're newbie reporter? You need an all-encompassing read on creative nonfiction? You need a reminder maybe? This is THE book for you.
Erin
If you ever wanted to learn the tools behind how writer's create compelling creative non-fiction or memoirs, then read this book. Lee Gutkind has a way of entertaining and educating readers who want to become writers of "truthiness". Highly recommend.
Sara Gray
This was a very handy and smart book. Gutkind provides some really great and practical tips for the nonfiction writer, particularly when it comes to structure and story. It's definitely staying in my reference pile.
Amber Starfire
I loved this book -- devoured it straight through, which is unusual for any book on writing. Lee Gutkind's advice is practical and straightforward. I highly recommend this for any creative nonfiction or memoir writer.
Sarah
Nuts, bolts and salty wisdom on the writing of great non-fiction....recommend to any writer - especially if you will be reporting on happenings which involve other people...ethics are an essential part of this book.
Ed Lasher
The advice was good, if a bit obvious most of the time. Overall, this book felt lazy, as if Gutkind were trying to fulfill a contract. There's also a few too many plugs for his magazine.
Eileen
This is a very helpful textbook. There are exercises to try with one's own writing, as well as examples of good creative nonfiction.
Patricia Brooks
Excellent read for a writer on non-fiction such as myself
Good stories and ideas to ramp up what I'm planning
Very helpful
Alisha
Wonderful ideas and suggestions; great clarity.
Ann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marilyn
Oct 18, 2012 Marilyn marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
So far, so good.
Miranda Bucy
Miranda Bucy marked it as to-read
Sep 27, 2014
Arava
Arava marked it as to-read
Sep 27, 2014
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Sarah Ferguson marked it as to-read
Sep 25, 2014
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Lee Gutkind has been recognized by Vanity Fair as “the godfather behind creative nonfiction.” A prolific writer, he has authored and edited over twenty-five books, and is the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, the first and largest literary magazine to publish only narrative nonfiction. Gutkind has received grants, honors, and awards from numerous organizations including the National Endow...more
More about Lee Gutkind...
In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 1 I Wasn't Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 3 Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know about Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction

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“As writers we intend to make a difference, to alter people's lives for the greater good. . .this is why we write, to have an impact on society, to put a personal stamp on history. . .Art and literature are the legacies we leave to succeeding generations. We'll be forgotten, but our books and essays, our stories and poems can survive us. . .” 4 likes
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