About Donald Maass

Donald Maass is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. He has written several highly acclaimed craft books for novelists including The Breakout Novelist, The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel and The Career Novelist.

Recent Posts by this author:

  • Openings: Intrigue Versus Engagement
  • Third Level Emotions
  • Change
  • Emotional Work
  • Let’s Talk About Me
  • The World According to You
  • Stirring Higher Emotions
  • Plotting the Non-Plot-Driven Novel
  • The Meaning of Everything
  • Pin Connections and the Two Journeys
  • Gems Vs. Necklaces
  • The Reader’s Emotional Journey

  • Third Level Emotions

    In drafting your novel, would you leave out dialogue?  Would you fail to include action or events?  Would you ensure that nothing is described?  Would you forego theme, forget mood, ignore time, eschew era, not bother with relationships, or erase any traces of voice? Of course not. Why then do so many novelists fail to […]


    The surest way to stir emotion in readers can be summed up in one word: change. Change is a universal experience.  We’ve all gone through it.  We cannot avoid it.  The passages of life guarantee it.  Change is necessary, difficult, wrenching and individual.  When a character in a story changes we each recall the emotional […]

    Emotional Work

    I’ve been teaching a new kind of craft lately. It’s emotional craft, the understanding and planning of a novel’s emotional effect on readers. Most authors focus on characters’ emotions, principally the much discussed issue of showing versus telling. That’s fine but limiting. For readers, most of the emotional experience of a novel doesn’t come from […]

    Let’s Talk About Me

    “Let’s talk about me!” Generally speaking, that’s not good advice for handling yourself in social situations.  Better is to listen and ask questions.  Being interested in others is the way to make friends and influence people.  (Smile too.  That helps.) In bonding readers to characters on the page, though, the reverse is true.  We open […]

    The World According to You

    How do you see the world?  Is it the Land of Milk and Honey or The Hunger Games?  Is the glass half empty or half full?  Is our human existence hilarious, serene, tragic or full of hope?  Do you sort, filter, organize and understand everything around you primarily through feelings, family, cost versus benefit, politics, […]

    Stirring Higher Emotions

    What was the most emotional day of your life?  Google for people’s stories and you’ll read a lot that are probably like your own: birth, death, betrayal, trauma, marriage, divorce, miscarriage, failure, second chance, recovery, a dream achieved, a confession of love, getting a helping hand. Now, those are events.  Let’s look at the emotions […]

    Plotting the Non-Plot-Driven Novel

    Have you ever grown impatient with a novel?  Have you ever restlessly flipped ahead wishing that something would happen?  Of course.  It’s a common feeling.  Put politely, you feel frustrated.  Put plainly, you’re bored. Perhaps your own current manuscript has also had you feeling, at times, impatient.  Have you struggled to find a way to […]

    The Meaning of Everything

    It was my son’s seventh birthday.  We asked what he wanted.  He told us.  And so… …we got a puppy. A boy and his dog.  Growing up  together.  How sweet.  How classic.  Our son is adopted.  He comes from a hard place.  He has struggled to attach, a long process of pendulum swings from safety […]

    Pin Connections and the Two Journeys

    I spend a lot of time in airports.  Wait around as much as I do and you begin to admire airport design.  Think the TWA Terminal at JFK, Terminal B at SJC, the International Terminal at SFO, the passenger arrival canopy at PDX, or the mountain range roof of DEN. Gorgeous.  High.  Open.  Airy.  Look […]

    Gems Vs. Necklaces

    I love necklaces.  No, I’m not a hippie.  I’m not a cross-dresser.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  I just love the many ways in which women make themselves beautiful.  A French twist, a bare shoulder, smoky eyes, a pretty necklace. Diamond necklaces are stunning.  Not that I see them except in the window […]

    The Reader’s Emotional Journey

    When I was little I hated tomatoes.  Not tomato sauce, mind you.  When my mother made spaghetti I’d eat three helpings.  After dinner I’d lie on the couch, clutch my belly and groan.  But actual tomatoes, sliced on a sandwich?  Bleech!  Go figure.  I was a kid. This tomato aversion persisted into adulthood.  Then one […]