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The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  531 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
The Making of a Story is a fresh and inspiring guide to the basics of creative writing—both fiction and creative nonfiction. Its hands-on, completely accessible approach walks writers through each stage of the creative process, from the initial triggering idea to the revision of the final manuscript. It is unique in combing the three main aspects of creative writing instru ...more
Hardcover, 677 pages
Published August 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton Company
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Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read about writing in order to become a better reader. This guide is among the best.
Oct 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aleksandr Voinov
Feb 12, 2017 is currently reading it
Finally reading this after having owned it for years.
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Tee Jay
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
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
Jennifer  Karchmer
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Catherine Gillespie
May 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
If you write fiction or creative nonfiction, or if you enjoy reading short stories and want to know more about how to understand the literature you read, you would probably get a lot out of Alice LaPlante’s The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing.

I found that the book covered issues and techniques I’ve read about before in other books about writing, but I appreciated that every section included short stories illustrative of the points made in that section.

{Read my full review h
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Nov 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Robin Mccormack
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Method and Madness study - 14 months, 14 chapters, lots of completed exercises. Simply amazing book and I'm starting all over again. Except at my own pace, taking the exercises and completing them for yet another character. So much to absorb, learning something new each time I open the book.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
            I actually had an epiphany while reading this book. This neon-green book is large, inviting, and unintimidating, loaded with incredible examples, exercises, and advice that will forever impact my writing and approach. Oftentimes I have struggled with “what to write about”- that looming, dark, confidence-shrinking question. However, after reading LaPlante’s advice, I have completely moved past this question because of a few simple life-changing paragraphs in this book:

May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Are you a writer? This is a must read book. It's part of the Norton Guide series - you know, those fiction and poetry anthologies stuffed to the gills printed on thin paper that you have to read in English Lit class - and as such, it's an excellent guide to how to write. Covering both fiction (mostly the short story, but techniques apply to novels as well) and creative non-fiction (memoir, essay), this book is an amazing resource.

Read the first half of the book (Ch. 1-5) to learn how to make yo
Corinne Apezteguia
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My sister read this as part of a creative writing course at her university. I was so impressed with how her writing improved that she purchased this book for me that Christmas.

This is the best and most comprehensive book on writing that I've read (I'm guessing I've read 15 or so at this point). There are excellent examples that illustrate the difference between showing/telling (which includes an excellent explanation of the role of narration). LaPlante's advice with regards to writing as if you
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just want to brag that I read this cover to cover in my free time, and not for a class. It was terrific! A wonderful selection of stories to read at the end of each chapter, from Lorrie Moore to James Baldwin to Chekhov. Like a DIY MFA, but better because not tens of thousands of dollars. I picked it up when I felt like I was losing touch with some basic storytelling principles and wanted a refresher, and it was perfect for that and more. Far from prescriptive, it's very sensitive about actual ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
I read this book for my creative writing class. I thought it was pretty beneficial, but overall it was a little too boring for me.
4.5 I would give this a solid 5 if it weren't for the dated language that I found pretty offensive in some parts, not even the stories from 1900 on.
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: college-reads
I LOVE this textbook. Okay, not necessarily the stories in it, but the exercises and some of the explanations. Granted, this is one I had to have for a fiction writing class. To be honest, it was only used to start class discussions before my professor kinda went (not word-for-word or anything), "So yeah...let's write. That's more fun."

The exercises inside helped spur on ideas for future short stories that I hope to finish writing (or leave in the current, unfinished state) and the advice gave m
Oct 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I would say that this book beats "Bird by Bird" in the way of creative writing books. Not only does LaPlante say with each "rule" that they are more suggestions and and the reasons why they work best for most people, but she gives short story and essay examples of what she is trying to teach you as well as exercises for you to practice. So you get the learning with three. She teaches you with explanation, with examples, then with experience. I would highly suggest getting this book if you are le ...more
Dec 31, 2013 added it
Shelves: writer-workshop
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
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
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
Cara Sexton
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Facundo Martin
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An expansive and enriching guide. Some of the theory reads a bit like an elementary textbook and there are repetitive parts, but overall it helps you rethink many aspects of creative writing. Each chapter is complete with exercises to put what you've read to practice and hone your writing skills. The best thing about this book, though, is the truly superb selection of creative fiction and nonfiction to exemplify LaPlante's points. Because, after all, you can't paraphrase good literature and need ...more
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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
More about Alice LaPlante