The Art of Writing Fiction, 2nd edition

An elegant and intimate insight into the personal and practical processes of writing, Andrew Cowan’s The Art of Writing Fiction draws on his experience as a prize-winning novelist and his work with emerging writers at the University of East Anglia.

As illuminating for the recreational writer as for students of Creative Writing, the twelve chapters of this book correspond to the twelve weeks of a typical university syllabus, and provide guidance on mastering key aspects of fiction such as structure, character, voice, point of view, and setting, as well as describing techniques for stimulating creativity and getting the most out of feedback.

This new edition offers extended consideration to structure, point of view, and the organisation of time in the novel, as well as the conduct of the Creative Writing workshop in the light of the decolonising the curriculum movement. It features additional writing exercises, as well as an afterword with invaluable advice on approaching agents and publishers. The range of writers surveyed is greatly expanded, finding inspiration and practical guidance in the work of Margaret Atwood, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, Richard Beard, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Richard Ford, Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Anjali Joseph, James Joyce, James Kelman, Ian McEwan, Arundhati Roy, Sam Selvon, Vikram Seth, and Ali Smith, among many others.

With over 80 writing exercises and examples taken from dozens of novels and short stories, the new edition of The Art of Writing Fiction is enriched by the author’s own experience as a novelist and lecturer, making it an essential guide for readers interested in the theory, teaching, and practice of Creative Writing.


'Drawing on his own experience as a writer, Andrew Cowan lays bare the notes and experiences that he has used in his career, aiming to give an introduction to the creative writing process'
 - Times Higher Education

‘What lifts this book above many like it is the sense of it being a memoir of the ambition, faltering development and ultimate success of a prize-winning prose writer; and the truly engaging way Cowan uses his own struggles to illuminate the challenges faced by any fiction writer’ – Paul Wright, Writing in Education

'The best coursebook on Creative Writing that I have ever read. Everything is here... writer/teachers will be stealing from this book for years to come’ - Richard Beard, National Academy of Writing

'Very sane, intelligent, and in tune with my own experience of teaching’ - Tessa Hadley, Bath Spa University

'At last a well-written, intelligent book about Creative Writing that I can comfortably recommend to my students’ - Matt Thorne, Brunel University

'Having taught Creative Writing for many years to students at all levels, I am grateful to this book on several levels. Andrew Cowan has a knack for expressing exactly what you want to know next just as you form the desire. His prose is lucid, funny and to the point, while the exercises he outlines, the excerpts he chooses and the development of the book add up to a whole that teaches a course that is beneficial to anyone trying to write well. Essential reading for every writer' - Raffaella Barker

'This book has become my standby in university fiction-writing classes; I've used it for over a dozen courses with British, American and Singaporean students.  Cowan distils the wisdom of a great many fiction writers and couples it with his own, the product of a life dedicated to writing.  I'm at pains to think of a better novelist to have written a substantial work on the art of writing fiction (yes, I have considered James and King).  The only books as useful or as wise are Gardner's...  Cowan's voice is supportive, perhaps stern, but never top-lofty' - Barrie Sherwood, Nanyang University, Singapore

'I think it's a really fantastic resource. The chapter on 'Viewpoints' is perfect’ - Karen Stevens, University of Chichester

'Structurally the book is perfect, but what makes it magical is the revelatory tone... intimate and honest and instructive in a meditative manner. Solid advice sure, but sold so poetically' - Susan Bradley Smith, La Trobe University

'Not only is it really useful and informative, it is also enjoyable to read... essential reading for all my students!' - Michael Langan, University of Greenwich

'I've recommended it to my MA and PhD students. It's a work that in a very unself-conscious way takes us with the writer through the stages of the creative writing experience. I found the quotes honest and apposite and unlaboured. It is authentic'
 - Dic Edwards, University of Wales Lampeter

'The book covers many of the narrative and creative issues that come up when teaching creative writing. The examples are excellent. The chapters rise in complexity beginning with an engaging piece on writers' places and practice and gradually taking novice writers through more complex narrative issues'
 - Stephanie Norgate, University of Chichester

'It looks absolutely great and will be a tremendous asset in our program' - Professor Brian Castro, University of Adelaide

‘Clearly written, interesting and well-targeted suggestions for practical exercises' - 
Wayne Price, Aberdeen University

‘It is without doubt a comprehensive guide to writing fiction, and a good one at that. However, it is also a study of ‘the art (and the craft, and the graft) of writing’ and as such The Art of Writing Fiction has something to offer everyone, from the newbie writer just starting out, to the more experienced writer looking to remind herself of the basics… Don’t be in a hurry, tackle it chapter by chapter and absorb and enjoy’ – Marianne Wheelaghan, Blog of a Scottish Writer