Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Turning Life into Fiction” as Want to Read:
Turning Life into Fiction
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Turning Life into Fiction

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  150 ratings  ·  19 reviews
A highly entertaining and indispensable manual on how to write good fiction

If you want to write at all, whether from real life or not, you must be willing and able to use your imagination. That means you must be willing to take risks and sometimes look the fool. You must be willing to transform experience, not simply record it. If you were a good liar, daydreamer, or troub
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Graywolf Press (first published 1994)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Turning Life into Fiction, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Turning Life into Fiction

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  150 ratings  ·  19 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Grace Author
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are writing a memoir, stop! Instead turn your life story into an interesting
book of fiction.
Robin's book has tips on how to make your boring life into a fun read.

Florence Lyon
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence by: Barbara Florio Graham
This 1994 hard copy edition was a gift from a writing friend. It has some great advice and suggested writing exercises.

I chuckled at the part about eavesdropping and writing snippets of conversations into your jot journal for later inspiration.

Honestly, I skimmed through the second half of the book quickly and didn't read it page by page. I will know where to find it if I'm looking for ideas and guidance later on.

Will Stevenson
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
A little basic and long winded.
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is well written and makes it easy to come away with some good nuggets of practical advice. Overall, I feel really encouraged and better equipped to move forward with my writing.
Sarah Olson
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fun, interesting, honest and engaging. Well-worth the time of any aspiring author.
April Brown
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, writing
What ages would I recommend it too? Eighteen and up.

Length? A couple of days read.

Characters? No.

Setting? Real world writing issues.

Written approximately? 1994.

Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? I'd like to read the updated version with internet research covered.

Any issues the author (or a more recent publisher) should cover? Yes. Internet research, tone back the repetitiveness, and clarify this mostly aimed at short story writers, not novelists.

Short storyline: A discussion, w
Theryn Fleming
This is a book of very practical advice for beginning writers. For example, Hemley advises against surprise! endings and "as you know, Bob" dialogue, encourages writers to think about their audience, and avoid "so what?" stories (ones with no point). There's really nothing to disagree with here. I think he tends to get a little wordy/repetitive at times, but it's all good advice. There are also writing exercises at the end of each chapter. This edition was published in 1994 (noticeable due to th ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: how-to
I learned alot from this. It talks not only about how to sufficiently change what has happened in your life in order to fit a book, but it also explains about how individuals can see them in your book when the characters were completely made up. There are a lot of lessons I will take from reading this, and recommend it to all writers. I write science fiction/ fantasy and never thought this would pertain to me. Any writer will benefit from reading this.
Karla Huebner
This was quite the fun read. While it's intended for fiction writers, I recommend it to all who know them, as Hemley makes clear how and why we transform ourselves, the people we know, and the people we overhear on the bus into fictional characters. So go read it and don't complain if you imagine one of my characters is based on you. It might really be based on someone else. Or on me.
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read this book for a university level, Senior Fiction Writing seminar. Overall, I now have a better grasp on the technical concept of turning life events into fiction, however, the author in no way inspired me to do so. I came into this text with a project idea already brewing and close the cover far less interested in pursuing it. Is that a positive outcome? This reader says no.
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
This book was great for anyone who wants to write. The tendency to pick events out of our real life to write about is explored. What I learned is that I have a lot of anecdotes to relate-which are NOT stories. They may be used in stories, but they are not stories in and of themselves. Very thought provoking for any fledgling fiction writers.

Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a craft book for fiction writers. I'm killing two birds with one stone: preparing to teach a writing workshop--"Writing from Life: for Fiction and CNF writers"--in January, and doing my homework for an interview with the author (also in January) for upstreet.
bought as a sourcebook to use when teaching creative and fiction writing...wasn't necessary.
Susan Stans
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really like this book gave me a lot of ideas and was very amusing with his examples. Every aspiring author should read this book; gave me lots to think about.
Robin Yaklin
Nov 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'm learning so much and feeling much better about questions that I have been wrestling with. Encouraged at keep a writer's kinda journal.
Hemley guides us in using our own family history to enlighten our short stories. Inspirational reader for all writers or teachers of writing.
Sheri Hathaway
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
A great resource for the writer but found the chapters too long with the topic wandering sometimes. When I have the time to read it, though, its got some good discussion on writing concerns.
Robert Vaughan
Mar 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Great self-help for writers. Reminders with nice re-caps at the end of chapters and writing exercises to expand one's arsenal.
Mar 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
We used this in my fiction workshop in college. Great writing exercises.
rated it it was ok
Dec 17, 2016
rated it liked it
May 10, 2013
Sarah Braud
rated it it was amazing
Mar 03, 2015
rated it really liked it
Aug 13, 2015
Brigid Conway
rated it really liked it
Apr 01, 2017
rated it really liked it
Jul 28, 2011
Linda Schaab
rated it really liked it
Mar 26, 2018
Tim Huntley
rated it really liked it
Jan 22, 2013
rated it liked it
Jun 30, 2015
rated it liked it
Feb 26, 2012
rated it it was amazing
May 25, 2009
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
  • Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice
  • Damn! Why Didnt I Write That?: How Ordinary People are Raking in $100,000.00 or More Writing Nonfiction Books & How You Can Too!
  • The Weekend Novelist
  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
  • The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success
  • 4 A.M. Breakthrough: Unconventional Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction
  • Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author
  • The Write-Brain Workbook
  • Writing Life Stories
  • The Writer's Idea Book
  • Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction
  • Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively
  • The Writer's Block: 786 Ideas To Jump-start Your Imagination
  • Now Write!: Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers
  • Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What!)
  • How to Write a Damn Good Mystery: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript
  • 90 Days to Your Novel: A Day-By-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book
See similar books…
Robin Hemley has published seven books of nonfiction and fiction. His latest book, Invented Eden, The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday deals with a purported anthropological hoax in the Philippines. James Hamilton Paterson, writing in the London Review of Books, call Invented Eden, "brave and wholly convincing." John Leonard writes in Harpers, "Besides a terrific story, Invented Eden is a ...more