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Are you writing for the modern 21st century reader?

What I learned from Donald Maass and his books

Donald Maass

Writers need to put some fire under their characters to break out their fiction. When I discovered the work literary agent Donald Maass has done on character development in his books on writing, I hit the mother lode. I would have to write a book to tell you everything I’ve learned.

You know how Project Runway’s mentor Tim Gunn is always saying, “Make it work?” Well, Donald Maass’s credo is “Make it worse.”

Do you have the character needed to write today’s fiction? 

StoryMaster Donald Maass

Let’s face it, most fiction writers–George R. R. Martin the exception–are timid babies when it comes to their characters. They don’t want to hurt them, push them, or abuse them. They certainly won’t kill them. Instead it’s all about making nice and coddling them. Well, in the fiction world defined by Donald Maass, a coddled character produces a weak, ineffective, boring story. Worse, it’s unpublishable. Talk about a death knell. Who wants that?

No matter where you are in your story, if there’s one thing you can do to make it better it’s to escalate the tension and make it worse.

Are you writing for the modern, 21st century reader?

This is the question Donald Maass answers in his new book Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction. From the stacks of manuscripts filling his office, Maass can easily answer that question.

Far too many writers are relying on old, stuff rules and writing techniques from the last century and few are writing to meet the high demands of the modern reader. If you want to write fiction today that is satisfying and rewarding today, read what Maass has to say in his new book. (I know, the book isn’t published yet but you can preorder now to make sure you don’t forget. I have.)

More Books by Donald Maass and ways to make it worse

Luckily, Maass has written several books that focus on plot and character. You can’t go wrong with the tips, strategies, and explanations he provides. Ideally, you’ll also attend an intensive workshop but that’s not necessary to gain a deeper understanding of character and plot development. I highly recommend his work. Use these exercises during the early book developmental stages or apply their contents and exercises in revision. Start anywhere, just start.


Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass — This is a compilation of exercises that Donald Maass has used during his weekend and intensive breakout novel workshops. He guides you through the exercises and has you apply them to your own work.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass– This is a detailed explanation of all the many facets of character and plot development that Maass has refined and provided for writers to use for their own work. While the workbook can be used alone, this adds even more information to the process and gives a broader and more in-depth look at the techniques. 

The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass — If you want to make sure your novel goes to the next level, be sure and pick up this book. You’ll be writing on steroids. 

Click here for books by Donald Maass, here for Breakout Novel workshops, here for the fantastic Storymasters weekend, and then add some fire to your fiction.

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