Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass

It’s a question authors have grappled with for ages. What makes a book stand apart? What makes it resonate deeply with a reader? What makes it change lives?

The great minds of nineteenth century, sixteenth, or even earlier probably would have differed in their ideas from us today, but what works today? Fortunately, we have writing books and bloggers to analyze trends, and among them, one of my favorites, is agent Donald Maass with his insights into what makes 21st century fiction high impact.

I picked up Writing 21st Century Fiction because I’d previously loved Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel. I have whole shelves full of writing books, but these two surpass all others. Why? For me, they’re upfront and challenging while at the same time inspiring. Maass sets before his readers a higher standard than a typical craft book or class. He doesn’t write to those who just want to be published. He writes to those who want to rise above the crowd, and that’s me exactly.

The downside to Maass’s approach is that it’s a lot of work, but between the more than fifty exercises in Writing 21st Century Fiction and his clear breakdown of successful trends, his suggestions are straightforward. He challenges 21st century writers to dare higher, dig deeper, and get out of the way of their subconsciouses. His techniques are not for the faint of heart, but they are effective. If you look at the most successful books of the past decade, you’ll find what he’s talking about within their spellbinding pages.

So in a nutshell, what makes 21st century fiction high impact? It contains strong emotional draw, daring plots, beautiful writing, and stories that take a stand. For how that all works and how to implement it in your own writing, I’ll let Maass do the explaining.

I’m giving this one five out of five stars. It’s well worth the read and will remain a treasured book in the craft section of my bookshelves.

What are some of your favorite writing books? What do you think makes a story high impact?

Make sure to swing back by on Monday for the next few chapters of K.M. Weiland’s Dreamlander where we’ll delve the pages for what to do to make a strong story.


  1. I have to be honest in that I haven't read a writing book in many, many years. This, however, sounds like one I might look into.

    I used to read a lot of them but honestly can't remember any of the titles (I gave most of them away to the local library when I cleared out my den not too long ago). Perhaps I need to start looking for some new ones. Thanks for the recommendation, Laura!

  2. This one is on my shelf, but I haven't read it yet. I'll move it to the top of my TBR pile now :)