Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress

BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES, AND ENDS is part of the “Elements of Fiction Writing” series from Writer’s Digest Books, and is an excellent guide for writers who are just starting out. This short, straightforward book focuses on linear plots and stock characters, providing a good amount of useful information without overwhelming anyone.

The section on beginnings got my attention because it covers the first two opening scenes. Kress says the second is just as important as the first, and they must contrast with each other in some way. Unlike most how-to books, BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES, AND ENDS does not dismiss prologues out of hand. Kress explains the advantages and disadvantages, letting each of us choose what’s best for our own books.

The middle section covers things like developing characters, thinking in scenes, staying on track, and planning for the climax. Since “sagging middles” plague many novelists, Kress explains how planing for the end can tell a writer which scenes to include in the middle. She has sympathy for stuck writers and offers suggestions for finding your way out.

For the ending, Kress shows how to fulfill the promise set forth in the beginning and middle, chiefly by thinking about what your reader wants from an ending and providing it. She wraps up the book with a few words about revision.

I’m generally a fan of this series. At least a few volumes should be on every writer’s shelf. (See PLOT and SETTING.) BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES, AND ENDS is a great introduction to the topic, making it a practical choice for new writers.

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rating: 4 stars

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pie slices: 8 slices craft

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This book is best for: beginning writers

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I recommend this book

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