Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers


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This classic guide, from the renowned novelist and professor, has helped transform generations of aspiring writers into masterful writers—and will continue to do so for many years to come.  
John Gardner was almost as famous as a teacher of creative writing as he was for his own works. In this practical, instructive handbook, based on the courses and seminars that he gave, he explains, simply and cogently, the principles and techniques of good writing. Gardner’s lessons, exemplified with detailed excerpts from classic works of literature, sweep across a complete range of topics—from the nature of aesthetics to the shape of a refined sentence. Written with passion, precision, and a deep respect for the art of writing, Gardner’s book serves by turns as a critic, mentor, and friend. Anyone who has ever thought of taking the step from reader to writer should begin here.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679734031
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/1991
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 135,516
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

John Gardner was accorded wide praise for his works of imagination, of criticism, and of scholarship.  He was born in 1933 in Batavia, New York.  Among the universities at which he taught are Oberlin, San Francisco State, Northwestern, Southern Illinois, Bennington and SUNY-Binghamton. The Art of Fiction was completed before his death in 1982.

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Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
osmium_antidote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While EXTREMELY dry, boring, repetative and wordy, this is by far the best book on the craft of writing fiction that I have ever read. And, I'm not even young. Now...if only I can put it all into practice.
fender1901 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is at once very informative and very challenging and, it seems to be written for the most serious of writers. I myself am new to writing but I have read a lot on the craft and I felt this book to be very informative. I can also see where some people would be put off by it. He has a very elitist tone and says so himself. He doesn't give much value to popular fiction praising literary works as "true" fiction and even still finds fault with some of them. However, i do feel that, if one can look past a few small flaws, maybe in the man's personality more than anything, one can come away with some great attitudes, information and motivation. John Gardner believes in writing perfect stories and endless revision. I believe that if one were to follow what they read very literally they would definitely become better writers and novelists from reading this book.
Nickelini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the realm of books on ¿how to become a writer,¿ this seminal work has been touted by many successful writers. So who am I¿an unpublished writer¿to criticize it? Yet, criticize it I must. With the availability of writing books that are both conversational and inspiring, The Art of Fiction is a complete drag to read. Gardner condescends to his audience; he is pompous and dismissive. While there is some excellent material buried in this book, it is difficult to extract it from his pretentious writing. My favourite sentence to hate was: ¿The writer who can¿t distinguish truth from a peanut-butter sandwich can never write good fiction.¿ Yeah, that¿s helpful and inspiring. Not. The title of the book is also misleading: The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. Well, perhaps if that young writer has completed a bachelor¿s degree in English literature. He assumes the reader has a deep understanding of the western canon. Throughout the book, Gardner alludes to, and uses examples from, a vast range of writers that many in his audience (even older readers) probably haven¿t read. A few years ago, after reading (and loving) Beowulf, I read Gardner¿s Grendel. I was very disappointed. Now I know why¿John Gardner is a lousy writer. If you like to read books that recreate the experience of being lectured at by an arrogant, snobby professor, then this is the book for you. Maybe when this was published in 1983 it was the best book available to the aspiring writer. However, it¿s now twenty-five years later, and there are so many better books out there.
ostrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A solid book on fiction-writing, with some good exercises in the back.
j.leigh.muller on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating book for those seeking to improve grammar and syntax, of course, but this book does even more - it helps the writer learn to be discerning in choice of phrase, seeking just the right words and word-combinations to capture the thought exactly. Gardner helps writers of all ages cultivate good taste.
BobNolin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read this through several times over the years, continue to find useful bits and help. Only negative I would offer is that he offers up the works of surrealist, "jazzing", metafictional writers such as William H. Gass and Donald Barthelme throughout, when solid mainstream fiction is what is being taught here. I remember when I first read this as a young man, thinking that the writers he mentions must be good to read for examples and inspiration. Instead, I realized over time that they were not popular authors or even particularly good ones. Certainly not authors to read if one's aim is mainstream literary fiction. So, take the odd author choices with a grain of salt, and what remains is one of the best books on writing ever written.
jasonli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gardner's "The Art of Fiction" is one long yet vivid lecture on writing fiction. As Gardner puts it, the goal is to create a powerful and uninterrupted "fictional dream" and this book is about what that entails. The book is broken up into two parts. Part one is a primer on what is writing and why to do it. Part two is a more technical discussion on various processes and techniques.I found Gardner's voice strong without being inflexible, and the contents struck a good balance between inspirational and helpful. The topics it covers may be basic, but I think they're essential and Gardner's slightly acerbic voice makes it an enjoyable read.
SarahEHWilson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would rate this up at the top of best writing books ever, along with Brenda Ueland's "If You Want to Write." It's also one of the most compelling arguments I've ever read that all fiction is essentially moral and writing great literature requires character (even if, as he points out, that character only shows up in the writing process and goes on vacation while dealing with real people; many writers write better than they are, and thank heavens for that). The only reason I don't give it 5 stars is because, oddly, for all his insistence on truth and empathy, every single one of his references to religion, specifically of the Christian stripe, is mildly or explicitly pejorative. Undoubtedly a blind spot, but (to mix metaphors) it sticks out like a sore thumb.
LaurieRKing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sensible yet subtle, one could only wish his novels were as readable. (You have to wonder what his first drafts looked like, before the wrtiting teacher's heavy editorial hand descended.)
dubflicker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had to buy a second copy; the best stuff is probably the exercises. This has a chapter that\'s uncharacteristically supportive of postmodernism-as long as you\'ve mastered all of your fundamental, \"persistent dream\" skills etc.
RodRaglin More than 1 year ago
Duties, responsibilities and the author's obligation to tell the truth The Art of Fiction - Notes on Craft for Young Writers By John Gardner One of the most interesting things about this book is how attitudes have changed in regards to what it means to be an author. The Art of Fiction - Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner, was published in 1984, long before the advent of online platforms that make self-publishing free and easy to any and everyone. This is not your "How to Write a Novel for Dummies" and Gardner definitely would not have supported "everyone's right to publish" as proclaimed by many indie authors and the entire self-publishing industry. Gardner felt that aspiring to be an author was almost akin to a "higher calling" and required rigorous study and practice. As well as hard work and sacrifice such a career choice came with duties and responsibilities. The most important of which is telling the truth, and not just getting facts right, but making sure your fiction is believable and not perceived by the reader as a lie. Foremost it must "affirm moral truths about human existence". Good fiction according to Gardner "creates a vivid and continuous dream" for the reader. Though the book contains good suggestions on craft they're not presented point by point but rather embedded within the text. That means enduring a lot of with Gardner's rather academic, elitist attitude. Is it worth it? Definitely - if you're serious about becoming an accomplished author.
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Litgirl More than 1 year ago
I read this for a class in MFA program. I really appreciated Gardner's advice on the craft of writing. He gives good examples of his statements and has the ability to lead you through his tenets with an engaging voice and an interesting style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't doubt that John Gardner has a lot of useful things to say. However, his approach is more scholarly and snobby than practical and digestible. Sure there are lessons to be learned here, but part of being an effective teacher is to know how to get your point across. My mind drifted as I sifted through his long-winded, sometimes downright boring writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Art of Fiction is a book for, as John Gardner writes, serious literary artists. Though it is within reach of the casual reader interested in observing a dissection of the art of writing, it spurs the serious writer to explore and learn all aspects of craft, to read again and again so as to not miss a word (my copy is falling apart). The book belongs alongside 'Narrative Discourse' and Tolstoy's 'What is Art?' Like 'Walden,' The Art of Fiction is layered with wisdom.