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Writing Fiction, Tenth Edition

A Guide to Narrative Craft

More than 250,000 copies sold!

A creative writer’s shelf should hold at least three essential books: a dictionary, a style guide, and Writing Fiction. Janet Burroway’s best-selling classic is the most widely used creative writing text in America, and for more than three decades it has helped hundreds of thousands of students learn the craft. Now in its tenth edition, Writing Fiction is more accessible than ever for writers of all levels—inside or outside the classroom.

This new edition continues to provide advice that is practical, comprehensive, and flexible. Burroway’s tone is personal and nonprescriptive, welcoming learning writers into the community of practiced storytellers. Moving from freewriting to final revision, the book addresses “showing not telling,” characterization, dialogue, atmosphere, plot, imagery, and point of view. It includes new topics and writing prompts, and each chapter now ends with a list of recommended readings that exemplify the craft elements discussed, allowing for further study. And the examples and quotations throughout the book feature a wide and diverse range of today’s best and best-known creators of both novels and short stories.

This book is a master class in creative writing that also calls on us to renew our love of storytelling and celebrate the skill of writing well. There is a very good chance that one of your favorite authors learned the craft with Writing Fiction. And who knows what future favorite will get her start reading this edition?

Read the first chapter. An audiobook version is available.

240 pages | 4 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing

Reference and Bibliography


“The tenth edition of Janet Burroway’s classic 1982 book guides fiction writers of all levels through the entire creative process, with updated exemplary passages and advice from contemporary authors, and sections on current issues such as distraction, appropriation, different genres, and young adult fiction. Chapters focus on characterization, setting, plot and structure, point of view, and revision, and each closes with a list of suggested readings and writing prompts that allow for further study.”

Best Books for Writers | Poets & Writers

“Scrupulously written by a first-rate novelist who . . . gives tips, offers sensitive commentary, and exceptions to what may pass for ‘rules’ in writing.”

Praise for a previous edition | Frederick Busch, Los Angeles Times

“Marvelously clear-headed.”

Praise for a previous edition | Joan Fry, Poets and Writers

Table of Contents


1 Whatever Works: The Writing Process
2 Seeing is Believing: Showing and Telling
3 Building Character: Characterization, Part I
4 The Flesh Made Word: Characterization, Part II
5 Long Ago and Far Away: Fictional Setting
6 The Tower and The Net: Plot and Structure
7 Call Me Ishmael: Point of View
8 Is and Is Not: Comparison
9 Play It Again, Sam: Revision and Theme


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