So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction and Memoir – with Ira Wood

The long-awaited second edition of the critically acclaimed writing lecture and sourcebook based on the worskshops that Piercy has given (with her husband, the publisher Ira Wood) around the country at universities and such venues as the Esalen and Omega Institutes.

Marge Piercy & Ira Wood

The “Best Book of the Year” for Writers Selection
—The Writer Magazine


In a Revised New Edition, Bigger and Better Than Ever



A Featured Selection of the Writer’s Digest Book Club; chosen by The Writer Magazine as a Best Book of the Year for Writers; compared by the American Library Association’s BookList to Strunk and White’s classic The Elements of Style; acclaimed by critics, students and teachers, and adopted by universities across the country, the unique collaboration between a major American novelist and a cutting-edge publisher is back in a revised second edition, bigger and better than ever.

The most useful and entertaining writing book on the market, the updated second edition has new exercises and expanded essays, covering every aspect of writing and publishing fiction and memoir:

• How to begin a piece so that a reader can’t put it down,
• How to create compelling, multi-dimensional characters,
• How professional writers use dialog to carry the load of their story telling,
• How to narrow a strategy for telling the story of your life,
• How to write about painful material without coming off as a victim,
• How to use description to intensify plot,
• How to solve complicated problems of view point,
• How to pin point the problems that keep getting your work rejected,
• How to create an absorbing plot that keeps pace until the end.

Included are hundreds of insider tips, such as:

• The seven most important things to remember when writing about loved ones,
• The ten most destructive things writers do to thwart their careers,
• What no one will tell you about rejection letters,
• FAQ’s about agents and how much writers really earn,
• Writing professional query letters,
• What to do if your work is continually rejected by New York publishers.


Why a second edition and what’s new in it?


So You Want to Write is based on a living workshop, one that’s given to hundreds of writers a year. Because the workshop is entirely interactive, it has changed over time to reflect the many different questions participating writers are asking and the newest information in the publishing world.

Critics, writing teachers, students in creative writing departments and writers who continue to study their craft in worskhops, were telling us that So You Want to Write was simply one of the best writing tools on the market. They told us that the book was personal, that it reflected real-world information about publishing, and that it explained the nuts and bolts of literature for a generation that had seen far more movies that had read books. When we sold out our entire first edition we decided that rather than simply reprint, we’d update it completely.

What’s New?

• A New Chapter on Writing Short Stories,
• A New Chapter on Writing Humor,
• An Entire Chapter on How Not to Write Like A Victim,
• A Chapter Dedicated to Choosing a Selling Title,
• A New Chapter on Genre Writing: Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery and Historical Fiction,
• A Chapter Detialing the Worst Career Mistakes A Writers Can Make,
• Over 30 New Exercises,
• New Examples to Illustrate Concepts,
• Updated FAQ’s to Reflect What’s Going on in Publishing Now,
• A New Chapter on the Realities of Achieving Fame,
• Plus, updates of the book’s most popular chapters on: Description, Dialog, Characterization, Research, Viewpoint, Beginnings.

Don’t Take Our Word for It. Hear What People Are Saying About the Book:

  is a lively, informative, and down-to-earth guide for anyone who’s ever thought of writing and publishing a novel, story, or personal memoir.  It answers all the questions you  may have—as well as many you didn’t think of!”
— Alison Lurie, Pulitzer Prize Winning Novelist, Professor of English & Creative Writing at Cornell University

Marge Piercy and Ira Wood have been around the block plenty of times, stubbornly making their living out of a love of writing. And a tough living it is, too. While bestselling authors can make megabucks, most writers earn their bread the hard way: “$124,000, and it took four years of my life.” You do the math. Nevertheless, Wood and Piercy do not discourage the artist; instead they nurture with motherly advice on agents, and bittersweet tales, such as the story of “Kitchen Man”, Wood’s exemplary novel (excerpted in the appendix) that goes from campus favorite to out-of-print remainder in that too-short life cycle for so many excellent books.
There exercises, some to polish dialog, and my favorite exercise, a sort of checklist to get to know your characters that reads like a questionnaire for a dating service! There are anecdotes about other famous writing coaches, such as the story of a short novel that goes from coach Maxine Kumin to Joyce Carol Oates. Kunin advises the author that the work is going to be a short novella. “No, it’s a short novel of 180 pages” declares Oates. When the manuscript was finished, Joyce then tells the author “Treat this as if you are going to die. And this is what you will leave behind.” Pithy. Meaningful. This is good writing coaching. This is a warm, wonderful book especially for the memoir or fiction writer.


A Selection of the Writer’s Digest Book Club
A ‘Best Book of the Year for Writers’ Selection of The Writer Magazine
Best Book of the Year Finalist — Foreword Magazine 

“This is a great book, no matter what stage of writing you’re at – whether you’re just dabbling with ideas that have been rolling around your head for years, or whether you are sending out 20 query letters a day and have three completed manuscripts in your bottom desk drawer.”
The Writer Magazine

“A how-to written by a popular novelist and a successful publisher, this fine book is a distillation of the wisdom they have accumulated and dispensed over the years. The focus here is on technique. They start at the beginning with story openings and move smoothly through character building, the importance of dialogue and plot, and how to craft compelling narrative passages.”

“Those not lucky enough to have participated in the workshops can now benefit from their no-nonsense wisdom. Eschewing the current trend in process-based writing classes and guides, Piercy and Wood urge writers to read critically and read often; to ask themselves specific, exacting questions about their characters and plots; to complete the book’s writing exercises; to do research in order to make a piece of writing believable; to participate in some community of writers; and numerous other practical steps. Readers will appreciate the hardcore approach of these two dedicated writers.”
Publishers Weekly

“The authors conduct well-known writing seminars, and they have put much of this information into book form. They address all the elements of successful writing. They also go into work habits, overcoming the “inner censor” and dealing with publishers. A good primer for new writers; a fine reference book for any writer.”
— The Tampa Tribune

“Best-selling writer Piercy and novelist/publisher Wood have been co-teaching writers workshops for years and have reproduced their master course in this useful manual. The two authors encourage would-be writers to read as much as possible (included is a list of recommended books) as reading plays the key role in the process of learning how to write. Their exercises are short and to the point, just enough to get the juices flowing. This book, although joining an already saturated market is worth the shelf space.”
Library Journal

“Seamless and exceptionally engaging … a valuable tool for the apprentice in search of practical advice on the craft of fiction and memoir writing from accomplished novelists.”

“This new column, The Writing Life, helps to choose the best [of the how-to-write books] … Writers seriously looking to have their work published should pick up So You Want to Write. Wood’s advice on getting your work published is extremely helpful and worth the cost of the book alone.”
The St. Petersburg Times