Book Review

Writing Fiction – A User-Friendly Guide – James Essinger

I am joining today’s blog blitz for Writing Fiction by James Essinger, a handy little guide to writing fiction. Many thanks to James, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the blitz, and for providing me with a copy of the book.


Writing Fiction is a little pot of gold… Screenplay by Syd Field for film, Writing Fiction by James Essinger for fiction. It’s that simple.’ William Osborne, novelist and screenwriter

Writing Fiction – a user-friendly guide is a must-read if you want to write stories to a professional standard.

It draws on the author’s more than thirty years of experience as a professional writer, and on the work and ideas of writers including:

  • Anthony Burgess
  • Joseph Conrad
  • George Eliot
  • Ken Follett
  • Frederick Forsyth
  • Dan Harmon
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • David Lodge
  • Norman Mailer
  • John Milton
  • Ben Parker
  • K. Rowling
  • William Shakespeare
  • Martin Cruz Smith
  • R.R. Tolkien

The twenty-four chapters cover every important matter you need to know about, including: devising a compelling story, creating and developing characters, plotting, ‘plants’, backstory, suspense, dialogue, ‘show’ and ‘tell’, and how to make your novel more real than reality.

Also featuring special guest advice from legendary screenwriter Bob Gale, who wrote the three immortal Back to the Future movies (1985, 1989 and 1990), and novelist and screenwriter William Osborne, whose many screen credits include the co-writing of the blockbuster  Twins (1988), this highly entertaining book gives you all the advice and practical guidance you need to make your dream of becoming a published fiction writer come true.

Writing Fiction a user-friendly guide (1)


Amazon UK


Writing Fiction is a useful aid for both aspiring writers and writers with more experience. Written in short, concise chapters it is easier to follow than some weightier writing books that I have read, and I am sure it is a book that I will dip in and out of throughout my writing journey. James Essinger is clearly well read and coming from both the writer’s and agent’s perspective, he has a lot of helpful tips. I was also pleased to see that he recommended a few other books that are worth looking at, and I will definitely be investigating those.

I did find that this book felt more structured towards male writers. The majority of the examples cited from both page and screen were works that I had heard of, but had not read or watched, but I know that my Dad is a fan of all of them. A broader spectrum of examples would perhaps have made the points the author was making more relatable to a wider audience. The examples felt a long way from the type of book that I read and that I hope to one day finish writing, so it could just be that this was not the right book for me and would suit authors of different styles and genres down to the ground.

At times, the author could be quite brutal about the chances of success that a new author faces, and although this could be discouraging for some, I found it refreshing that the author chose not to sugar-coat the current publishing market, and was sending new authors into the literary world with their blinkers well and truly removed.

I enjoyed the three appendices, and I found some of the tips in Appendix 1 regarding common mistakes that writers make particularly useful.

All in all, I found this book easy to access and far less intimidating than others I have read on the subject.


Writing Fiction a user-friendly guide (2)James Essinger has been a professional writer since 1988. His non-fiction books include Jacquard’s Web (2004), Ada’s Algorithm (2013), which is to be filmed by Monumental Pictures, and Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership (2019). His novels include The Mating Game (2016) and The Ada Lovelace Project (2019).




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