Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

It's not very often that my opinion of a book is almost completely opposite to the reviews posted over at Amazon. In the case of: Writing Fiction for Dummies, that pretty much sums it up.

This book and it's authors have a loyal following. And I can understand why in some respects. It certainly delivers "the goods" if you are looking for a "technical breakdown" for lack of a better term on what it takes to write a novel in particular. What it isn't, in my opinion is an easy,engaging or "encouraging-for-the-aspiring- novelist" type of book to read.

It's been one of my goals, dreams, aspirations to write a novel for a LONG time. I gave it a constructive and lengthy try, a couple of times.

During one of those writing blitzes I even had the courage to share my finished pages (as the book progressed) with a friend who regularly read women's fiction along the same lines as what I was aspiring to create. This was also a friend known for "shooting from the hip" and definitely someone who would not hold back with her true opinion and feedback. And that suited me just fine. Her reaction to my weekly offerings  again and again were:

"this is just as good as anything else I've ever read" and "when will you have more ready to read" ...and other similar comments.

Needless to say, I was encouraged. Did I ever finish that book? No I did not. Short version of a long story, mainly because the story line became too emotional and personally painful for me to continue.I'll leave it at that.

The desire to write a novel though, has never left me. Right now I have another story idea in mind that I am eager to pursue. I've been looking for some writing aids in my quest to start and keep on going this time, to see my "great Canadian novel" finally a reality.

So back to Writing Fiction for Dummies. Again, there's no doubt that the popularity of this book and the amount of detailed work that has gone into every chapter is evident. But every time I have gone to read another chapter, I've eventually found myself either nodding off or daydreaming about something more pleasant to consider.

Writing any kind of book, fiction or non-fiction; sure it's work and a lot of work to get it right but should it not also be a creative and satisfying experience along the way? Isn't that what writing or any type of craft is  all about? All I felt after reading through (most not all) of this book was discouragement and boredom.

When I write a story, well... I WRITE A STORY! The polishing, the editing, the re-writing it comes afterwards. I don't want to be weighed down with a lot of the do's and don'ts and attention to the smallest of details that are presented in this book when I'm just trying to type as fast as I can! My main concern at that point in the process is not to "lose the muse or the moment".

From the Table of Contents:

  • Exposition: Explaining Cultural drivers through narrative summary.
  • Finding Your Category's Requirements and identifying your story's emotional driver.
  • Setting Up the Structure of Individual Scenes and following up with the reactive scene
  • Fixing Proactive Scenes and examining final results
  • Deciding whether to show and tell and following an example of decision making....
and so on and so on...and yawn, yawn, yawn....

I think this book may be a valuable resource for editing after the "meat and potatoes" process of actually writing a novel is complete or almost complete. Or for a writer with a definite analytical type of mind and style of writing. It's not what I'd call a "user-friendly" writer's resource and yes, I have read a few that I would categorize that way. I'll be posting some of my choices for writing guides I have found more helpful, here in the future.

Overall rating for this book: Fair. 2 out of 5.


  1. Ger,
    Thanks for this review, and I'm now looking forward to more reviews of other writing resources.

    I have heard good things about this series, but I'm thinking that the topic of writing needs something more inspiring and creative.

  2. I skimmed through this book and it looked very technical and complicated. I'm not a writer but if I was, I wouldn't choose this book as a guide.

  3. I am not a writer, so can't really judge this book, but I have a couple other Dummie books that are okay for what I need.

    My husband likes this, and I think it is for windows,too.

  4. Hi Brenda, I've read a few writing guides over the years and I will share a couple more here in the future. Your last line sums up my feelings about a good writing guide; it has to be inspiring to be one of my choices.

    Hi Joe, I could see your eyes glazing over as you did? LOL

    Hi Sandy, Thanks to your husband and you for this link, I'll check it out, I've heard of that book. I also have some other "dummie" books that are good. I dislike the name of these books btw, it's not a good term to use, in my opinion, rather offensive I'm sure to a lot of people.

    Happy Weekend, G

  5. I don't think I cold go this road. I suggest anything by Julia Cameron to get the novel written!

  6. Hi again SandyL, I checked this link, didn't realise before it was to the actual download, thank you. It's currently only available for Mac users but Windows on the the way. It looks like an excellent writing software program.

    Has your husband written a full-length novel with this program? I'd be interested to hear about what he liked and disliked about this software.

    Hi SandyC, I've bookmarked one of Julia Cameron's book over at Chapters. I've got a couple of Chapters (AirMiles freebies) gift cards on the way so Ill get this book when it arrives, thanks so much. She looks like a very talented author and guide.

    I'm inspired to give my novel another try! G

  7. No, he is getting ready for retirement, and that is one of his dreams. He uses it now to organize other writing projects, though.

    By the way, I have read everything Julia Cameron has written on writing. Just finish one of her books called The Sound of Paper. She is good!!

  8. That was fast, thanks Sandy. It looks like a great program, I hope it's not too long before the Windows version is available. I'll check out that book too, she (Julia) has quite an impressive list!

    I wish your husband the best of luck with his book! It's a daunting project to undertake and see to completion but it would be so rewarding too.

    Happy Weekend, G

  9. Ger, I've read The Way of the Artist by Julia Cameron, and know she has some others. I have enjoyed what I have read by her. Happy reading!
    I'll be looking forward to what you have to say, and the other reviews you have in the works! :)


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