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Method and Madness: The Making of a Story
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Method and Madness: The Making of a Story

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  410 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Method and Madness takes its title from Hamlet: Though this be madness, yet there is method in it. Comprehensive and accessible, it provides guidelines to all aspects of fiction writing, from generating ideas to getting published. With a wealth of imaginative yet practical exercises and 39 stories the most in any guide to fiction writing Method and Madness offers friendly, ...more
Paperback, 619 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Jan 15, 2013 Teresa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: TD
This book is not only well-written (one would hope so) but fun to read. It's not only a great textbook for beginning writers, but a resource and refresher for not-so-beginning writers, and I think the exercises on how to "explode" open your pieces will be very useful.

Each chapter ends with wonderful short stories and creative nonfiction pieces to illustrate each chapter's lesson, and they were all a pleasure to read -- even the ones I'd read before, though finding new (to me) writings by John C
I bought this book because I was trying to write my own, but I had come face to face with a particular realization: I did not know what I was doing. I was not capable of producing the kind of writing I desperately wanted to produce, the kind of writing I wanted to read. Now in all humility, there may very well be readers who throw my book down in disgust and say " he still doesn't know how"; but at least I got the manuscript out and in to the hands of readers. And a lack of talent shining from m ...more
Jordan Ferguson
The one book I recommend to people [about writing] more than anything. Covering both fiction and narrative nonfiction, the book deals with a topic per chapter, from plot to dialogue to character. Just like every other writing book. But this book does a couple of things better than any other book I’ve seen: it has a less stringent focus on exercises, and it includes full texts. I don’t like writing books that want to kick me out and send me off to do something and come back to it later. I want a ...more
Chris Garcia
I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to craft books on poetry and prose fiction writing. The last thing I need is another one. But I came across this obscure book at the library and I was just amazed by it. Its a big fat book, as Norton books tend to be. But its packed with genuine information, not just pep talks. This is not a popular book, but its a very highly regarded book. I think this must have originally been intended for college writing courses, but its filled with exercises and you can us ...more
Diane Dunning
I've read loads of books on writing over the course of 20+ years, have taken many writing courses, have a degree in literature, and have made my living writing. When I got this book, I purchased it as a reference book like Strunk&White, the AP Style Guide, etc. I expected it to sit on a shelf. But then I started reading it for the short stories. Next thing I knew, I'd read it cover to cover (though not in that order). The book was entertaining, informative, practical and fun. And though it's ...more
I adopted this as a text for a creative writing class, because I appreciated the focus on craft, the exercises, and the stories included to illustrate the concepts (from Hemingway's "Hills like White Elephants" to Chekhov's "Lady with a Pet Dog" to ZZ Packer's "Brownies" to Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" to Frederick Busch's "Ralph the Duck"). It's engaging and practical, an excellent text for an intro to creative writing or intro to fiction class. If I didn't give this five stars, it's ...more
Tee Jay
In The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing, Alice LaPlante delves into the subject of creative writing with great detail; this book is layered, and has a lot of information to absorb—too much to be sufficiently learned with just one reading. This book will require many revisits, and many re-reads to get everything out of it. This is not a bad thing. For readers (and budding writers) who are looking to get a lot of bang for their buck, purchasing The Making of a Story: A Norton ...more
This book was recommended while I was attending the Writer on the Sound writer's conference in Edmonds, WA in 2010. I had signed up for the three-day event because there were small sessions for writing critique, and more importantly, Natalie Goldberg was keynote speaker. While that's ancillary information (as she was not the one who recommended the book), it set the stage for this "journalist" turned "writer" to purchase the 677-page paperback copy in a local bookstore to get on the literary pat ...more
I thought this book did a good job of laying down some "ground rules" for fiction writing. I mean, most seasoned authors would know them, but LaPlante provides a good refresher on how to craft characters, beginnings, ends, scenes, settings, etc. That's not to say her words are the be all and end all to writing. It was simply nice to see some solid advice laid out in an organized manner, backed up by some really cool short stories.
Jun 13, 2013 J.C. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: young writers, beginning writers
Recommended to J.C. by: Doug Rice
This was a textbook for my Fiction Writing class, and I gotta say i'm glad we ended up using it. I plan on having it on my desk for reference, study the short stories catalogued inside it and inspiration.

The advice in this book is fantastic, and the variety of short stories and clips from novels is helpful, insightful and enlightening. Plus the stories are just good, so there's that going for it. i've written over a great majority of them, though, which makes me wish I had studied the book with
Karen Germain
I just finished with my Spring Quarter writing classes and Alice LaPlante's Method and Madness, was the primary text for one of my classes. I don't normally review text books, but as I thought this was so phenomenal, I wanted to share my thoughts.

Although LaPlante's Method and Madness, covers all of the basics of creating a story, it's not necessarily a beginners manual. I've been taking writing classes for years and I still found plenty in LaPlante's book that stimulated my creativity and made
This is a nice writing referential guide all in one place - addresses many aspects in the realm of creative fiction as well as creative non-fiction, with a plethora of examples and citations. Much of the material I already knew, but it was interesting to gain insight on the usual story components. It does show its age a bit in certain terms, but I actually did like this guide (and it was pretty chunky reading/reviewing this via my commutes to work).

Overall score: 3.5/5
The problem with this book is that so little of it is written by LaPlante. Rather, probably 75 percent of the pages are filled with excerpts and full reprints of short stories. I don't mind examples to illustrate the element of writing being discussed, but it would be helpful to have more than a couple of sentences from LaPlante before Joyce Carol Oates shows up again.
An extensive coverage of all aspects of the craft of story telling. The surprise is that it doesn't help aspiring writers alone, it is a great guide to ordinary readers in their reading and evaluation of what they read. It can help in the making of demanding readers and this in turn can improve the quality of what we are offered by professional writers.
Cara Sexton
For an emerging writer, there is no more comprehensive book that I've found which covers the art and science of storytelling, both in fiction and nonfiction genres. Though its length is daunting, What sets this book apart from countless others is its inclusion of top-notch stories worked in throughout the text--classics and contemporary alike--to illustrate techniques, to teach the student to read as a writer does and to appreciate literature. This certainly adds enormously to the book's length, ...more
Austin Farmer
This book helped me to realize that although I had ideas in my head, they weren't successfully and fully "rendered" on the page. Before reading this book, my writing was stagnant, clumsy; now, after reading this book, I know how to navigate across the page more effectively and how to "render" the images in my head. This book will not only help you grow as a writer, it will also help you grow as a reader. This isn't just another one of those creative writing books - you will learn effective techn ...more
This book could be good for a total beginner, speaking mostly to fiction while touching on nonfiction. The book addresses a lot of key points for a story - details, characters, perspective, dialogue, as well as theories and common practices. About 1/3 is spent on exploring the concepts and the other 2/3 is examples with a few exercises thrown in. Established writers, however, may find themselves skipping along. It is rather academic, essentially a textbook; like a quote on the back says, "almost ...more
This has been on my bedside table for a few months. I'd pick it up now and again, a little afraid that it wouldn't live up to my expectations. I grabbed it this morning on the way to the hell that is jury duty. Oh, what a great book!

LaPlante doesn't give lists of "writing rules" or cute stories of how to overcome blocks. Instead, she peppers explanations with great quotes and examples. Each chapter has three parts: the first lays the groundwork of a topic (like "Crafting Effective Dialogue"), t
Think of this book as a pick-your-own guide to creative writing. Both fiction and nonfiction are covered here with discussions, definitions, exercises, and samples from known authors. Basics to get you thinking and started writing through closer examinations of issues in separate elements such as character and plot, and so many other questions, are clearly outlined in the table of contents to help navigate this thick volume. Recommended for beginners and those looking for clarity or direction, a ...more
Michael Fischer
The best fiction writing text I've ever read. LaPlante gives equal treatment to craft (method) and heart (madness), and encourages young writers to learn the rules so that they can be broken. Unlike other craft texts, the tone is lively, sassy, and playful, rather than dry, dull, and condescending. Two of my favorite lines from the book are:

"The only rule for fiction is that it be interesting."

"Creative writing is the one area where you don't want to be 'appropriate.' Appropriate is for dinner p
A writing course in a book, covering all the bases. Each chapter covers an important topic, such as point of view, with an extensive discussion, a set of exercises (and samples of student work for each exercise), and several reading selections relevant to the topic. So you have your lectures, your exercises, and your anthology all in one neat package.

This book carefully examines standard writing advice (e.g. show, don't tell) and explodes myths propagated by lazy writing teachers. The chapters o
I never thought I would be interested in or that good at writing fiction - I'm much more the poetry and non-fiction person, but the exercises in this book helped me develop better skills at writing fictional pieces. The exercises were fun and insightful. The only thing I really didn't like about this book is some of the choices for the readings. I don't think vulgarity and sexual connotations are necessary to teach a lesson. Some of the stories were disturbing, and I was left wondering if they w ...more
I did not enjoy this book. I loved the short examples and the stories, but overall I wanted more and expected more bout the basic steps of writing. Maybe I can come back to it later.
Desiree Rico
I used this text in my creative writing fiction class and it was a wonderful tool, full of inspiring writers and short stories.
( ●—● ) Evelynn
There is some great advice in here, but reading it as a Christian, there was so much input from a worldly standpoint that I couldn't justify giving it a higher rating. There was lots of idolizing secular authors and their books/stories, and pretty much every single story that was inserted at the end of each chapter as an example had at least one swear word in it. A couple of the stories left me wondering why they were considered an excellent example of literature.

Overall, it was a good book to p
Robin Mccormack
Jan 10, 2015 Robin Mccormack is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Method and Madness study - chapter 6 Who's telling this story.
good stories -- it took me a year and a half to read but it's done
Daniel Viramontes
A clear, concise book of guidelines for fiction writing -- it doesn't prescribe the "correct" way to write, instead providing suggestions and tools to help the author focus on and effectively channel his or her inner madness onto the page. The beauty of fiction is that it is amorphous and unable to be defined, but Alice LaPlante does a fantastic job rendering the different facets of the craft into a very accessible text. Honestly, though, the short stories used to illustrate the point of each ch ...more
Nana Mizushima
A big, thick book but worth it. Great help in learning to write.
Jun 11, 2012 Jewel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: misc
THE book for those who want to learn how to write short stories. I used this book in a short story writing class I took for fun and it is nothing but excellent. LaPlante does a structured breakdown of how writers go about making a story, from the thought process to balancing the types of narration in your work. the book is also stuffed full of short stories to demonstrate different kinds of plot, different uses of sensory detail and so forth. she even gives examples of bad stories, ha!
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Textbook vs. Non Textbook 1 3 Mar 22, 2012 06:42AM  
  • Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer
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  • 90 Days to Your Novel: A Day-By-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book
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  • Making Shapely Fiction
  • The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction
  • How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them
  • The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success
  • Description
  • Story Structure Architect: A Writer's Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters
  • A Writer's Coach: An Editor's Guide to Words That Work
  • What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School
  • The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing: Everything You Need To Know About Creating & Selling Your Work (Writers Digest)
  • On Writing (Modern Library)
  • Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style
Alice LaPlante is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. She teaches creative writing at Stanford University, where she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer. She also teaches in the MFA program at San Francisco State University. Her fiction has been widely published in Epoch, Southwestern Review, and other literary journals. Alice is the author of five books, including ...more
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