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Publisher's Summary

Whether you're huddled around the campfire, composing an email to a friend, or sitting down to write a novel, storytelling is fundamental to human nature. But as any writer can tell you, the blank page can be daunting. It's tough to know where to get started, what details to include in each scene, and how to move from the kernel of an idea to a completed manuscript.
Writing great fiction isn't a gift reserved for the talented few. There is a craft to storytelling that can be learned, and studying writing techniques can be incredibly rewarding - both personally and professionally. Even if you don’t have ambitions of penning the next Moby-Dick, you'll find value in exploring all the elements of fiction.
From evoking a scene to charting a plot to revising your drafts, Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques offers a master class in storytelling. Taught by award-winning novelist James Hynes, a former visiting professor at the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop, these 24 insightful lectures show you the ins and outs of the fiction writer's craft. Get tips for developing believable and memorable characters, explore how to craft plausible dialogue that serves the purposes of your narrative, compare the advantages of different points of view, and more. A wealth of exercises will inspire you to practice the many techniques you learn. Professor Hynes is an able guide, showing you what has worked for him and other novelists, and pointing out pitfalls to avoid. Writing Great Fiction is truly an exceptional course for anyone interested in storytelling.
©2014 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2014 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Madeleine on 11-19-15

Theory AND Practice

This really is an outstanding course. I teach creative writing and I got interested to have a listen to this to get a glimpse of another approach.

I'd say that if you are a complete beginner writer, then this is probably not helpful yet. But if you are a writing novice, with a little unpublished writing under your belt, this may be the single most helpful tool you ever buy.

If you are an experienced writer who has gotten stuck in your process, this is a marvelous guide to alternate approaches.

Well presented, very well illustrated through texts and super-practical.

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27 of 27 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By William on 01-30-15

Good advice and sobering truths

What did you like best about this story?

This is an excellent lecture for both the beginner and for the guy working on his next book. The first half of the book was filled with the same old tips you find in most writing books. That’s not to say the tips weren’t valuable – in fact they made for a good refresher. However, it was the latter part of the lecture that I found most helpful.

I am a published (not self-published) author of a well-written (though not very successful) book that I am convinced, far exceeded my actual capabilities. I am very proud of that book but I am fairly convinced it was a fluke. Now I am currently halfway through my next book and I find myself facing the same struggles and self-loathing that I faced writing the first book.

So I found it very reassuring to know that my plight is no different than what most writers face. Listening to (most) of the second half of this lecture inspired me and gave me hope. Hope that I am just like every successful writer out there and that I too would reach my goal.

I highlight the word (most) because the last chapter of this lecture was so frank and true that I questioned why I am even writing in the first place. In the last 30min, Hynes gives a sobering and honest account of what it means to be a writer. Despite the lack of success from my first book, I am still deluded enough to believe that some day I will write the great American novel. So while Hynes’ honest conclusion may leave the listener feeling defeated, I have taken it as a call to arms. If writing were easy everyone would do it.

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174 of 183 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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4 out of 5 stars
By Kev Partner on 12-17-14


I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this series of lectures which seem to cover just about anything you wanted to know about the craft of fiction beyond the basic rules of construction, grammar and spelling (it's assumed you already have those skills).

Professor Hynes is a warm, modest but clearly very knowledgeable narrator and he draws examples from across the literary spectrum - all the way from the great American and British novelists of the 19th Century to their modern counterparts. From literary masterpieces to genre fiction including "A Song of Ice and Fire" and, later on, "The Lord of the Rings". Examinations of the work of George Elliot, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain rub shoulders with George RR Martin, Dashiell Hammett and Hynes himself. Having such a wide range of knowledge and examples to illustrate his points demonstrates how the art of fiction, despite surface appearances, is much as it always was.

My only criticism is the lack of notes - it would have been really helpful to have had an accompanying website with handouts. Like most people (I imagine), I listened to the lectures on the move and couldn't write anything down or easily add bookmarks. However, I've learned enough just by listening to know where I need to concentrate my efforts and I can always go back to the specific lecture if needed,

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27 of 28 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Kaggy on 04-10-17

How to improve your writing and your reading

After nearly five decades of reading and enjoying fiction I thought it was high time I understood a bit more about the process of creating a good book. Professor James Hynes is a successful writer and an extremely proficient teacher. Using examples from his own works and from a diverse bunch of novelists he explains how and why great books engage and inspire their readers and the techniques used to maintain suspense and continued interest.
If you are considering writing a book, he is realistic but also encouraging. If you can master the techniques (and the exercises at the end of each chapter are a great start) then you will have all the skills necessary to embark on your own writing project and even if you only produce something for your own self-satisfaction that surely must be a reward in itself. I found this course informative but also incredibly entertaining and will be returning to listen to the professor’s wise words as time goes on.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By P. Kelaart on 05-21-16


I found the lecturers love for fiction shone through in every literary example he discussed. I also found him very personable and down to Earth.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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