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Starting from Scratch Paperback – March 1, 1989


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reissue edition (March 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055334630X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553346305
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Focusing on the wonders of the English language, "Brown here gives nonwriters and writers alike a book to enjoy quite apart from its instructional value," stated PW . " The tone is stern but empathetic, spiced by the author's sassy wit and full of information on the writer's craft."
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

While Brown offers sound practical advice for fiction writers, her witty colloquial style makes this manual more entertaining than others. Brown is less concerned with showing writers how to break into the market than with their survivalphysical, spiritual, and creativewhile trying to become published. Thus she instructs the reader not just in matters of craft but how to get enough to eat and sleep while working the "paying job." Suggested writing exercises, an annotated reading list, and a plan for a model writer's school all betray Brown's seriousness about the entreprise of literary production, making this useful for students of writing and literature and of interest to those curious about Brown's own career. Mollie Brodsky, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, N.J.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sister Jane novels-Outfoxed, Hotspur, Full Cry, The Hunt Ball, The Hounds and the Fury, The Tell-Tale Horse, and Hounded to Death-as well as the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries and Rubyfruit Jungle, In Her Day, Six of One, and The Sand Castle, among many others. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
The author comes across as arrogant and condescending most of the time. I'd recommend skipping Parts I and II altogether, where she brags about herself then lays down all sorts of "musts" if you want to be a "real" writer. Writers have an amazing talent for procrastinating: I must clean the entire house-, I must paint the bedroom-, I must find a new job before I can start writing. Brown's "Must study Latin first" rule discussed by others above strikes me as a colossal example for this. I'm sure studying Latin is one of many effective ways to improve your craft, but to insist writers should not even put pen to paper until those two years of study are complete seems the height of lunacy.

Authors interested in writing mystery, fantasy, horror, SF, etc, will likely be put off by her repeated declaration that genre fiction is on the far edges of the distant suburbs of fiction, and none of her rules apply to it because it isn't real writing.

Part IV - a whip around of the peculiarities of writing different forms and in different media (television and film scripts, magazine articles, plays, etc - is of minor interest, short stories are blown off altogether.

Part V, her curriculum for a writers conservatory, would be better shared with an academic journal.

Part VI, her 30+ page reading list of critical works of fiction through the ages, starting in 665 AD, feels like it's pulled from a doctoral dissertation.

It's an interesting list, and contains many excellent works of genre:
...Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 1995
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent writer's manual in many ways--I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on reading classics for "what works," the reasoning behind why a writer should know Latin, among others--even while it is totally inappropriate in others--things such as the unrealistic expectations based on Brown's own successes and her failure to understand genres, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery. Still, the annotated reading list in the back is amazing for the simple fact that you have a hard time imagining that one person could read all of it, and yet it challenges you to give it a go.

(This "review" originally appeared in First Impressions Installment One [[...]
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Starting From Scratch will have you laughing and crying your way to the end. This is how it really is; from publishers to editors to rejections to how to pay the rent. Rita Mae Brown writes one of the best books on the writing life I've ever come across.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Carrie Laben on May 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
As Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, John Gardner's Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist, Stephen King's On Writing, and many more. This book is just another hybrid memoir/advice book. Not that this is necessarily bad (nor necessarily good) but the title is definitely deceptive.
Compared to the books I just mentioned, I definitely found this one below average. The information regarding latinate vs. Anglo-Saxon words gets a bit more thorough covering than in John Gardner, which is really nice, and if I could have bought just that chapter I would have, but listening to Ms. Brown's rather annoying social opinions for the rest of the book made it just not worth it - not for this Yankee anyway.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Heather Fraser on December 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
"If you can tolerate my temperament you'll probably enjoy the writer's manual". In Starting From Scratch, author Rita Mae Brown includes tons of personal information and a lot of valuable writing advice.
From early childhood Brown had a desire to be a writer. "It never occurred to me to be anything else". Brown's manual opens with a summary of here early years and a basic beginning to her writing career. Brown includes discussion of her struggles as a writer. She includes sleep tactics, proper eating instructions and a few pages denouncing drinking and drugs of any form. "It should be obvious to you that you must learn Latin". Brown discusses the importance and impact Latin has had on evolving our language. Brown gives brief summaries of her income from her writing career, she adds input on writing magazine articles, non-fiction, short stories, play productions and screenplays. Brown closes with an 18 page reading list. "This is prepared from a writer's point of view".
I was pleased with the approach Brown took throughout her book. She had a clear avenue of thought, but absolutely no sequential order. Brown shares a lot of personal information, and many insightful points about the writing profession. An interesting book and enjoyable read. Definitely a different kind of writers manual.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
What I like about this book is the practical advice she gives. Notes on lighting, the importance of a good computer (which is outdated now, however), the value of the OED, and other points. These are nice homey bits to read, comforting if you have any interest in writing.
The bad advice is when she gets on to how to learn to write. For instance; get an English PhD. Try homosexuality, it'll give you something to write about. Be a Latin scholar. Read this terrifically large reading list. And so on.
I don't doubt the value of learning Latin, Old English, and all the rest of the usual English Lit coursework. But I do doubt the necessity of that to become a good writer. I wanted to improve my writing, and read this book early on. Her advice about studying Latin was seemingly good, so I studied it for two years. The good part was I learned a lot of Latin. The bad thing was I didn't get any better at writing. Her focus and arrogance on academia is annoying and misleading. I spend too many years there myself (in another field) to believe otherwise. But the lure of the degree is very seductive.
My advice on learning to write? Ignore all the writers. Except for "On Writing Well", by Zinsser. That's the only book on writing I keep on my shelf.
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