Novel writing is similar to baking a cake. You start off with an idea of what you’re going to make and at the end, if you’ve done your job, you wind up with something pretty sweet. But it’s the middle to me that bears the greatest similarity. It’s all about the ingredients. First off, the right ingredients, because the cake will never be a cake without them. And second, using the ingredients in the proper amounts. This leads us to FICTION WRITING MODES by Mike Klaassen. Not only has Mike assembled the ingredients for a novel, he’s shown us how to use each effectively to create a killer story.
Off the bat, Mike lays out what sets his book apart from other books on fiction writing. This in itself is helpful because as a writer, you have to be able to describe what sets your work apart. It doesn’t have to be this huge thing either. Just a fine tweaking that distinguishes you from the rest of the pack.
The Ingredients! Or if you’re not big on cake (can you believe that some people don’t like cake?) you can think of the fiction modes as tools. Think of building a ‘67 Ford Mustang. You’ll need tools to do it. Well, in building our Mustang of a novel, one that changes gears smoothly and just flows and flies off book shelves, we will need the tools and material to do the job right. Mike assembles those tools and materials for us.
He’s assembled those tools in an easy to find outline style. One of the things I love about this book is that each chapter has headings and hyperlinkable (is that a word?) Yes, hyperlinkable subjects. Take for instance the fiction mode of Sensation. Well there is a hyperlink for that Mode that will take you directly to it. So after you’ve read through the book, you can go back and use it as a handy desk reference.
I loved his section on FRUSTRATION and its role in Plot. I won’t go into detail here because I’d like you to read about it in the book. But I will say that if you follow this one piece of advice alone, you’ll go far. Just imagine if you follow them all.
CONS (And there weren’t many):
I think Mike spent too much time in the beginning talking about how he developed his modes. That could’ve been placed in the appendix or referenced in a separate article or blog post.
In keeping with that first con, while he explained to us the superiority of his modes, he kept referencing the inferior modes. Yes, I know one needs a point of reference. But when referring to that point, it’s best to downplay it. Perhaps mention the inferior once and the superior ten times.
Overall, FICTION WRITING MODES is a well written, thorough, tool for writers at any stage. Whether starting out or fine tuning skill, this book is an awesome desk reference. I give the book four out of five stars!
For more info on this book and others by Mike Klaassen, please visit