By Cunning & Craft

Writers Digest Books (hardcover), 2007
Serving House Books (paperback—revised), 2014

Writing successful fiction is a balance between trusting one’s own instincts and making the right conscious choices. In By Cunning & Craft, award-winning novelist and short-story writer Peter Selgin shows you how to combine the instinctive process of creation with sound technical ingenuity. With precise instruction and examples from classic and best-selling works, this authoritative guide helps you master all the essential fiction-wiring elements. Whether you’re facing the blank pages of a first draft or trying to revise a completed manuscript, By Cunning & Craft provides you with the guidance you need to outfox common writing pitfalls and make sure your work isn’t wanting in wit—or perfection.

PRAISE FOR By Cunning & Craft:

“There is craft and there is cunning. There is the struggle to get published at all. But there is also the chance that you will do something extraordinary. Peter Selgin illustrates the tricks, both basic and sophisticated. But greatness is what he’s really interested in. He thrusts the readers into the company of those who wrote magnificently. Salinger is quoted, Hemingway, Thomas Mann, E.M. Forster, John Gardner. ‘This book is for serious writers of all levels,’ he writes in the beginning, and he’s talking about intentions. If you mean to shoot for the stars, then this book is for you.”
—Benjamin Cheever, author of The Plagiarist, The Partisan

“Peter Selgin has written an excellent guide—witty, lucid, well-written—for beginning writers of fiction. In fact, any writer can learn from it.”
—Vivian Gornick, author of The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative

“Cunning and craft, indeed: Within these pages Peter Selgin quotes Chekov to the effect that, ‘The writer’s task is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly.’ What I admire most about By Cunning & Craft is its rare and inspired modesty—an ultimately stylish resistance to pledging more than Selgin (really anyone) can deliver. May many learn from this book.”
—Robert Polito, President of The Poetry Foundation, Director of the New School Graduate Writing Program

“Writing fiction is a matter of choices, decisions that shape the imagination. No one clarifies those choices more effectively than Peter Selgin in By Cunning & Craft. He demystifies the alternatives through straightforward explanations and illustrations. By showing the options, by suggesting which are most effective for specific situations, and by demonstrating through examples, Selgin gives writers the resources to structure their creativity.”
—Walter Cummins, Editor, The Literary Review

“Along with the great advice, Selgin is pure pleasure to read.”
—Alexander Steele, Dean of Faculty, Gotham Writers’ Workshop

“By Cunning & Craft is a masterpiece of writing about writing. If, like Scheherazade, you had to spin out a story under threat of death, this is the how-to book to read. It’s filled with thoughtful, nuanced advice from a teacher/writer who actually writes, and writes beautifully and with great humor. The list of rejected stories is worth the price of the whole book.”
—Nora Gallagher, author of Things Seen and Unseen and Changing Light

“A wonderfully helpful, thorough, and honest book on writing, By Cunning & Craft is filled with good sense, good advice, and many excellent examples of good writing. A book to read and read again with profit by the beginning, the middle, and the writer of many years.”
—Sheila Kohler, author of Cracks, Crossways, and The Children of Pithiviers