The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

"It will fascinate anyone interested in how fiction gets put together. For the young writer it will become a necessary handbook, a stern judge, an encouraging friend... In the first half of the book, Gardner investigated just what fiction is. In the second half, he treats specific technical matters. The Art of Fiction is filled with lecture counsel, wise encouragement." -John L'Heureux, The New York Times Book Review "A densely packed book of advice to all writers, not just young ones... It is serious, provocative, and funny, and I recommend it to anyone who cares about literature."- Margaret Manning, The Boston Globe "He lays out virtually everything a person might want to know [about] how to say it, with good and bad examples and judgments falling like autumn leaves in a November storm." -William McPherson, The Washington Post "The next best thing to graduate workshop in fiction writing. Drawing on examples from Homer to Kafka to Joyce Carol Oates, Gardner unravels the mysteries of plot, sentence structure, diction, and point of view." - Book-of-the-Month Club News From the Trade Paperback edition. ]]>

Reviews from Goodreads.com

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By Christy (Rapid City, SD) · ★★★★☆ · November 21, 2007
This is one of very, very many books on how to write fiction. Gardner's book strives to offer more than the multitude of alternatives do, however, and, generally, I'd say he succeeds.

The first half of the book is devoted to more theoretical discussions of the art of fiction, some of which is ver... ...more
By Chance (San Antonio, TX) · ★★★★☆ · July 26, 2013

In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner explains what it takes for a writer to create great fiction; it takes lots of hard work, advice that is more helpful than reading manuals that set unrealistic expectations through vacuous cheer leading. On a practical note, Gardner describes common mistakes and... ...more
By David (Agoura Hills, CA) · ★★★★★ · June 18, 2010
Of the very slim shelf of books on writing that are worth a damn, "The Art of Fiction" is by far the best. Passionate, evangelical, profound, deeply moving and extremely useful, it's meant for advanced writing students. But everyone interested in writing can benefit from reading it -- beginner, a... ...more
By Gail (Muncie, IN) · ★★☆☆☆ · May 27, 2011
Kicking off this whole pursuit of mine to read more about the art of writing, I picked a haughty tome to start with. I wish I could gush about Gardner's teaching here the way others on Goodreads have, but his points (all of them valid and good) darn near were lost on me on account of his high-min... ...more
By Rachael (Chicago, IL) · ★★★★☆ · March 29, 2011
I typically walk away from books about writing with a few new tips or tricks and maybe a new idea. This book is very different. As the title reflects, it explores fiction as both craft and art. At first I worried that Gardner was kind of pretentious--his style is certainly very academic. But he m... ...more
By sarah (Portland, OR) · ★★★★★ · February 25, 2011
It may be wonderful praise, may be a cautionary tale, that I began this book as a lark undertaken in the midst of two classes on memoir (nonfiction is, I've always believed, my life's work) and serious work rewriting my food memoir's first chapter, and before I'd half-finished Gardner's book, I b... ...more
By John (Seoul, 20, Korea, Republic of) · ★★☆☆☆ · June 28, 2012
Despite Gardner's claim that this is "the best book of its kind," I didn't find it helpful at all. Most of Gardner's ideas are surprisingly shallow considering how pretentiously (and obnoxiously) he writes. In describing how to write prose fiction, Gardner constantly encourages his readers to emu... ...more
By Cassandra (The United States) · ★★★★☆ · April 25, 2013
"Nobody's perfect, they generously observe. But the true artist is impatient with such talk. Circus knife-throwers know that it is indeed possible to be perfect, and one had better be. Perfection means hitting exactly what you are aiming at and not touching by a hair what you are not."
Gardner is... ...more
By Natasha (Singapore) · ★★★★☆ · March 02, 2009
John Gardner let's you know in his preface that he is writing this book for the serious writer (who he defines as the literary writer), so my fellow sci fi and fantasy writers (genre), we are not his target audience. However, that does not mean we can not learn from him.

I do not recommend this to... ...more
By Courtney (Saint Louis, MO) · ★★★★★ · March 31, 2014
"Good description is symbolic not because the writer plants symbols in it but because, by working in the proper way, he forces symbols still largely mysterious to him up into his conscious mind where, little by little as his fiction progresses, he can work with them and finally understand them. T... ...more