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197 of 199 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book got me published
Although Swain's book was originally published in 1965, there's a very good reason why it's still in print. The information he presents is solid, useful and timeless.
The book has 10 chapters. The first, Fiction and You, tells what the writer needs to know and gives common traps writers fall into. Then he discusses things like rules and the creative act of writing...
Published on July 1, 2002 by R. Tiedemann

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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Expensive for an outdated read with little information.
I was very disappointed with this. It's a book that's full of commonsense tips stuffed with unnecessary explanation. I will agree that some of the information in the book is timeless, but it's nothing that can't be found online. What little useful information is available would be more appropriate in the form of a 100-tips blog post.

It's expensive for such an...
Published 12 months ago by Lexington Alexander


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, October 26, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
This is one of the best books ever written for the aspiring fiction writer. I know, because it helped me become a published author. Swain writes in an engaging and entirely practical way. If you want to write, do yourself a favor and get this book
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Book, April 4, 2011
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This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
When I picked up, Techniques of the Selling Writer, I'd already written--or at least typed--six novels. I'd tried to sell them to publishing houses, and had lots of rejections to prove it. I'd read Anne Lamott's, Bird by Bird, and a half dozen other books by writers, on writing. I had my copy of Elements of Style handy and a well-thumbed thesaurus at hand. What more did I need? I knew how to write fiction--or so I thought.

Somewhere early in reading chapter two of Techniques I found myself saying, "Oh my God... why didn't I see that for myself?" Swain had addressed a point that was glaringly obvious, yet I'd missed it.

The next two days were spent updating everything I'd ever written, to correct my stupidity. And then, satisfied and feeling a bit relieved, I went back to Techniques and turned the page, only to say, "How could I possibly not have seen this?" Back I went to fix everything... again... and then again... and...

After the fourth time it happened I realized that it was going to keep on happening. I'd been making all the expected new writer mistakes. I weighed the advantages of retiring to a corner, curling into a ball and sucking my thumb for a time, but good sense prevailed and I kept on reading--and fixing. The result was prose that worked and characters who lived their lives in real-time, while I was retired to the prompter's booth where the writer belongs.

Swain's book is unique. He gives no rules. He leaves style and voice to the writer. Instead he talks about the elements of a scene, and what they each contribute to the whole. He talks about what point-of-view is, and why it's necessary. He talks about the traps we all fall into and why they are traps. There are none of the usual, "Here, read this chapter from my book and then I'll tell you why it's so wonderful." His examples are direct, pointed, and waste not a word.

If there's one book a writer needs to have on the shelf it's Dwight Swain's, Techniques of the Selling Writer.

Wizards
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't read this book...unless you want your writing to improve, January 4, 2006
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This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
Seems a little strange to review a book this old. One of the tips in this book is to not let your typewriter ribbon fade. My what? (Okay, I'm old enough to actually understand that, unfortunately).

I'm reviewing it because it's one of the best how-to books out there today for fiction writers. It has helped me and I know it can help you too.

The book isn't the easiest read. It's a bit dry and there is so much information packed in it, but if you can get through it, your writing is sure to benefit.

Some of the topics this book deals with are: How to build conflict, write a beginning, middle and end, the trouble with rules, (my favorite) writing the climax, writing vividly, and the list goes on and on...and on.

The only fiction how-to book that has helped me more is Browne and King's, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

I'm not quite ready to dethrone that one, but Techniques of the Selling Writer is one that has earned a permanent place on my reference shelf.

As reviewed on [...]

Author interviews, book reviews, and fiction related discussion.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like getting a PhD, March 19, 2006
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This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
Buy it, study it, apply it and Swain's classic will give you your PhD in fiction craft. In NovelPro, I recommend it above all other fiction technique books. Swain has been copied, but not surpassed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Techniques of the Selling Writer, March 7, 2009
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This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
I highly recommend this book if you're serious about writing.

This book initially threw me for loop. Through the first 50 pages I just didn't get it and kept asking myself why it seemed so disorganized, or more properly, organized so unlike other texts on improving writing skill/understanding the craft. I almost abandoned this book. Because of presentation I almost missed the message. That would have been a shame since the message is quite possibly the best I've read in my effort to learn the writing craft.

I suppose it could be conditioning or prejudice that established my apparent want for an easier format so if you're a person who appreciates a more structured format that tends to lend itself to teaching the written word you may feel the same way about this book but I urge you not to abandon it and consider what finally dawned on me, it's written as if it's a conversational or lecture format. It may have only been me who feels this way about the format so I've possibly spent unnecessary time explaining a personal problem. Either way I suggest you read this book if you want to technically understand what came instinctually to you before.

The author takes an approach of explaining the construct of a good story, at novel length, in technical reasoning that tells you how elements of a story can be put together so they work and are effective. He explains there are no tricks or rules. He contends that if you use your existing knowledge of what a good story is to you, apply understanding of the method of how it was created, and work on your craft - learning as you go by doing you might succeed as a writer. His goal is to improve the odds for you.

I've read many books on writing better but they've nearly all assumed a certain level of ability to begin with, as in you're probably on the cusp of success and this book will take you over the top. Mr. Swain's book assumes nothing and teaches you the craft. Although I think I knew a thing or two about writing before his book I believe he taught me understanding, in depth, of what I knew as well as understanding of many things I didn't know.

He will ask you to learn about yourself as a writer, examine your motivation so to speak. He talks about your never ceasing hunt for the right words in your current work so you communicate the desired message to the reader. He provides techniques in how to set the mood or feeling in your story. Of course the main issue in a work of fiction is conflict. When done with his chapter on conflict you'll know how to effectively and efficiently build it. He explains the construction of a story unit by unit in his chapter BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END. You might be surprised by what you learn. I don't think I've ever seen this detail examined as he has done it in any other text. I gained a much greater understanding of story people in his chapter devoted to the subject. He goes on to examine what all this means to a writer who wants to crate commercial fiction, the goal of the book, and gives you his thoughts.

I just finished reading the book and want to start again so I have the ideas firmly rooted in my brain before I put the next word in my story. This book was originally copyrighted in 1965 so be prepared for life as it was then in his examples. I feel it's the only portion of the book that dates it. Otherwise it is relevant in every respect. I'm glad it wasn't the first book I read on writing but I'm also glad I finally read it. It will have a place next to the other very limited set of relevant texts which occupy my resource shelf on my desk. Two of the other four essential resources are THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, and Webster's Dictionary.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reading this is like taking a class, July 31, 2003
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This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
The "Techniques of the Selling Writer" is written very much like a text book except it "sounds" very much like Mr. Swain is speaking to you. I will admit that some of the reading is a bit laborious, and unlike most books, I found that if I didn't use a book mark I'd get easily lost.
This book is about technique, as the title states, and that is what is to be found here. It doesn't have instructions one how to write a "block buster, best selling novel" nor does it describe in much detail about whether to use the "outline everything" model or the just do it approach, although Mr. Swain does have opinions about these topics and a host of others.
The techniques described here can and should be used to write for any genre and almost any type of writer could benefit from a good reading of this work. There is a reason this book is still being printed and is still popular after being first released some 38 years ago. And there is hardly anything out of date, sans a few mentions of typewriters and carbons, this book could have been written last year.
Because of it's length and because it is a bit hard to read in some places, I'd suggest that someone looking for a good book on writing for the first time start with something a bit less challenging and shorter, then, if interest is still high, come to this and learn in more detail and with more specifics the techniques presented. I have reviewed some other good books on writing, some of which are shorter and easier to read, but still very good.
I do highly recommend this work, in the middle of reading it, I took a short break and read a fast paced paperback fictional novel by a very successful writer and noticed all kinds of techniques that I had previously simply read without realizing the important function they were playing in making a successful novel.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning advice for writers, May 1, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
This book will save you years of study plus many hours of pain at the hands of members of your critique group. Get it. Study it. Do what it says. It makes sense and so will your writing if you listen to Mr. Swain.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely THE bible on writing fiction--there is none finer, March 29, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
Dwight Swain reveals the intricacies of novel writing in a way that is comprehensive and easy to understand. He takes you through the process and technique of creating fiction step by step. He poses the questions to his own answers--and answers them. Nothing could be simpler, and nothing could be finer than Dwight Swain, who remains in my opinion the finest teacher of novel writing ever to grace the pages of writing insruction.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Techniques of the Selling Writer, August 2, 2008
This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
I have purchased dozens of self-help writing books, writing magazines and writing related software over the past years, however I could have saved a lot of time developing effective writing techniques by purchasing Dwight Swain's book, "Techniques of the Selling Writer", earlier on in the process. I highly recommend this book to the beginner, as well as the long time aspiring writer.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go ahead. Underline the good parts., September 6, 2006
This review is from: Techniques of the Selling Writer (Paperback)
Good writing is not the subject here, commercial writing is. Mister Swain's purpose is to teach you how to produce fiction that will sell. That you arrive already an expert fashioner of sentences is a prerequisite. Anything less, he admonishes early on, and success is not possible. "If you need instruction in the traffic laws of the English language," he says, "you've wandered into the wrong field."

This is not the kind of text you give a quick read, shrug, and toss onto the pile. It's one to keep nearby afterward, to mark up with hi-liter, to go back and re-read until you truly get it. I did this in the "between" times - a few pages before bed; visits to the "throne" room; the long hot soak in the tub; - those times. If you do it that way, the change won't happen overnight, but you will find yourself thinking differently. You'll look for ways to apply the principles, and surprise, you'll find them.

Here is an opportunity to immerse yourself, for once, in proven ideas. Try it. You'll be pleased at the jump in your productivity - and your readers will love the "new" you.

Art Tirrell - author of The Secret Ever Keeps ISBN 978-1-60164-004-8, coming March 2007.

Note- as D.V. Swain was professor and mentor to Mr. Jack Bickham, who published 80-some novels and whose Scene and Structure I also reviewed, it will not be a surprise to learn they advocate similar approaches.
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Techniques of the Selling Writer
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain (Paperback - January 15, 1981)
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