Book Review – Crafting Fiction Volume 1: Hard-Boiled Outlines by William Miller

I picked up a Kindle copy of this title because I’m a great believer in the old adage “you never stop learning,” and when it comes to writing fiction, it definitely applies. I’ve bought a few books on outlining over the years. I never finished reading any of them as I began to lose the will to live halfway through due to over-explanation and less-than-interesting writing. These comments don’t apply to William Miller’s book.

When I write I try to see my story unfold in my head cinematically. Miller studies the three-act structure by using well-known movies (“Back to the Future” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) as examples using only the information a writer needs. Perfect.

The book explains in basic terms how to outline your novel. The author breaks the story process into thirteen ‘beats’ and gives each beat concise descriptions in plain, easy-to-follow language. His examples are short and to the point. Miller’s focus is on content, not style. He talks about the content needed to produce an outline and backs it up by telling the reader why it’s important. He also points out which beats he considers to be essential and which ones are optional.

I would say to anyone who buys this book, whether in print or for Kindle, I suggest you read it with a notebook and pencil next to you. I spent a very enlightening couple of hours at the Cape Cod Mall Barnes & Noble reading and taking notes I know I’ll be referring to frequently. If you’re a fan of the classic pulp stories you may see similarities between Miller’s beats and Lester Dent’s “Pulp Fiction Master Plot Formula.”

On a side note, I’ve just purchased “Noble Man,” Miller’s first Jake Noble thriller so I can see how the author puts theory into practice.

“Crafting Fiction Volume 1: Hard-Boiled Outlines” is a joy to read. It’s one of the most straightforward, and entertaining books about the craft that I’ve purchased and read (and will read again numerous times). It’s well written in a format that doesn’t waste the reader’s time by letting you overthink the writing process. “Read this and start writing” is the message, unlike other weighty tomes on the subject that shout “read this and waste hour after hour of valuable writing time.”

If you’re searching for a no-nonsense guide to writing commercially popular fiction, this is the one. Do yourself a favor, buy this book. You won’t regret it.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review – Crafting Fiction Volume 1: Hard-Boiled Outlines by William Miller

  1. Susanne Leist says:

    For my second book, I read articles on outlining and creating scenes. At first, I was confused since each author used different terms. Once I decided to create a chart, the plot points, inciting event, black moment, and so on, fell into place. Now that I look back at what I went through to outline my book, I cringe. It’s like a semester of school I don’t want to visit again. Therefore, I might buy the book you recommend. I like the idea of beats. Musical beats to guide my story.

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