The Worlds of R. A. Hortz
"The Making of a Story" Vs. "Method and Madness"
"The Making of a Story" Versus "Method and Madness"
An Article/Review by Rochelle Caviness - February 6, 2017
I was recently asked, "Do you know if Alice LaPlante's two writing books, Method and Madness: The Making of a Story - A Guide to Writing Fiction and The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing, are the same book?" I thought this was a rather odd question so I decided to look into it and share my answer with you. My short answer to this question is both yes and no, let me explain...
On the surface they would appear to be different books, after all they have slightly different titles and there is a large difference in price.
This, more than anything, makes it appear that they are different books.
- Method and Madness is only available as a paperback. I'm not sure what the list price was for this book when it was released, but the publisher is currently selling it at retail for $57.87 including shipping.
- On the other hand, The Making of a Story has a list price of $21.95 for the paperback edition, and $29.95 for the hardback edition.
However, comparing the table of contents of each book reveals a startling similarity in content. There are nevertheless some exceptions:
I found a recording of an interview that LaPlante did on
Writers on Writing. This is a radio show about writing and writers that airs on KUCI 88.9 FM. The show is hosted by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. (By the way, this excellent show is still on the radio, and you can download current and past episodes via the show's website at http://writersonwriting.blogspot.com/.)
- Each chapter, in each book, concludes with a "Reading as a Writer" section with one to four readings for each chapter. There is a slight difference in the 'readings' between the two books.
- As well, some of the subsections in The Making of a Story that deal with creative nonfiction topics are missing from Method and Madness.
- This got me even more curious, and I thought I'd see what the author had to say on the matter...
So my answer is yes, because both books are nearly the same, and no, because while they are similar they are not identical. In most cases these small differences might not matter, but if you need the book for a class, it might be necessary to get the version specified by the teacher.
- The May 21, 2014 broadcast of Writers on Writing featured interviews with Alice LaPlante & Zachary Lazar.
- LaPlante was the first writer interviewed and at about 28 minutes into the show she let slip a little secret - she implies that Method and Madness and The Making of a Story are technically the same book.
- In this interview she states that there are two versions of the book. Method and Madness is the textbook version and The Making of a Story is the trade version.
- I recommend that you download the complete audio of this interview at http://writersonwriting.blogspot.com/2014_05_01_archive.html so that you can hear what she says in more detail.
Basically, if you want to get one of these books for your own use, or are trying to decide which book to use for a writer's group, it does not appear to matter which book you get. However, if you need this book for a class you are taking, you might want to take a look at the table of contents of each book and see if you can find copies of the readings that are missing from the volume you need, versus the book you want to get, or ask your teacher if it really matters which book you use.
So which book should you get? It depends. If you do not need this book for a class, I'd say to get whichever is cheapest.
- In addition, as the title suggests, it appears that The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing was intended to cover creative writing in all its aspects.
- Whereas in Method and Madness: The Making of a Story - A Guide to Writing Fiction, several short sections, and one chapter, on creative nonfiction were excised so that the book would focus solely on writing fiction.
- The biggest difference between the two books is chapter 14, in The Making of a Story this chapter deals solely with creative nonfiction.
- In Method and Madness the creative nonfiction chapter was replaced with one that gives an overview on getting published, from how to format a manuscript to rejections.
Whichever book you decide to get, you are in for a treat. LaPlante, in both books, provides an in-depth and articulate overview of the craft of fiction writing. The readings are a mix of short stories, which help you to see the principles she is teaching in action, as well as readings on craft. Each chapter also includes a series of exercises that will help you to internalize the material, and most important, which will get you writing. In short, both books serve as a one volume masterclass on creative writing in general, and fiction writing in particular.
- I found a 'like new' used copy of The Making of a Story online for less than $6.00 including shipping (currently they seem to be going for $10-12 dollars).
- By comparison, it looks like used copies of Method and Madness are going for around $50!
A short note about Alice LaPlante:
Writing Fiction & Imaginative Writing, by Janet Burroway.
For a novice writer looking for advice on how to begin here writers' education, take a look at Writing Fiction & Imaginative Writing. Both of these books, by Janet Burroway, provide a commendable introduction to the art, and craft, of writing.
Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight V. Swain.
A first class introduction on fiction writing that teaches you the techniques you need to know to craft saleable fiction.
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