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11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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16 / 50 books. 32% done!

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Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

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22 / 100 books. 22% done!

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58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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60 / 165 books. 36% done!
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's A First For Me ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

So, this is a first for me—I've never reviewed a book without first reading it from cover to cover.  I'm not even sure I should give you my opinion on The Fiction Writer's Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf without doing so.  But, here's the thing—it's not the kind of book you read from Page 1 to Page 328.  That would be like reading the dictionary from beginning to end.  Because this "handbook" is more of a reference than a how-to guide, if that makes sense.  Let me try to explain ...

Lowenkopf, who is now in his 80s, has worked as a book editor for more than thirty years.  He's also spent three decades teaching in the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California.  I think it's safe to say he knows his stuff.  So, when he set about writing a book about writing, he decided to "produce the book I needed when I was setting forth as a writer, a book you could pick up at any page and be led by your own needs and curiosity ... I wanted a book that showed the connective tissue between the tools of storytelling instead of telling me how to construct separate damned chapters" (15).  Thus, he penned The Fiction Writer's Handbook.  

The book is set up like a dictionary, listing 350+ literary terms from A-Z.  Each entry offers a definition of the word/phrase/concept, along with a history of usage and examples from well-known books, movies and even television shows.  Many entries also include helpful hints garnered from Lowenkopf's vast experience.  I found lots of common terms, with which I was already familiar (cliché, nuance, subtext, red herring, etc.) as well as many, many I had never heard before (The Choking Doberman, macguffin, mise-en-scène, and the pathetic fallacy—just to name a few).  Lowenkopf gives each concept a thorough examination, indeed showing how different techniques work together to create an effective story.  It is, by far, the most complete literary handbook I've ever encountered.

If you're a writer—a budding novelist, a blogger, even just a student of literature—you want this book.  It's a fabulous resource to have on hand.  I'm sticking it on my desk, where it will be easy to reach every time I encounter an unfamiliar literary concept or need tips on how to best utilize a certain technique in my own writing.  I can already tell that it's going to be an invaluable resource for me.  

Since I didn't read every word of The Fiction Writer's Handbook, I'm not going to give it a grade.  I'm just going to tell you that it's worth a look, especially if you have any desire to not just write fiction, but also see it published.  Lowenkopf's writing bible is thorough, precise and will be infinitely useful to myself and every other writer out there.  It's like taking one of the author's famous writing courses without having to pay thousands in tuition.  I call that a win-win situation.

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Fiction Writer's Handbook from the good folks at Premiere Virtual Author Book Tours.  Thank you!  


  1. Cool.. That is probably something that people go ooo I wonder if it is any good but no one reviews since its not a story per se! Thanks for providing input.. I will have to look into this!

    Amber @

  2. Thanks for taking part in the tour. I'm so glad you found The Writer's Fiction Handbook a fab resource!


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