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The Magic of Fiction: Crafting Words into Story: The Writer's Guide to Writing & Editing Paperback – February 29, 2016
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From the Back Cover
Crafting good fiction isn't an impossible feat. You just need a dose of fiction magic.
- create first drafts that require fewer rewrites
- systematically review the fiction elements and major sections of text
- correct problems with key story elements, including plot, setting, character, dialogue, conflict, and point of view
- edit manuscripts as an editor would
- meet the expectations of readers
- push beyond the impulse to settle for so-so stories
Top customer reviews
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Beth Hill has a friendly voice and easy style, so I don’t feel like I’m back in school, taking grammar lessons all over again. There were times I forgot I was reading a guide because I was genuinely interested and immersed in her explanations and examples. She does a thorough and concise job examining all major and minor elements in fiction. Hill doesn’t talk only about punctuation, oh no, she discusses structure, how to make description sing, dialogue do’s and don’ts, how to introduce and raise conflict, major components of setting, how to manipulate pace, scene goals, word choices, genre expectations, and much more.
One of the best pieces of advice Hill offers is this: “During the creation phase, create. Use your imagination. Don’t limit yourself to rules and to doing the right thing—be open to everything.” I share this philosophy, but I know there are many who put “right” before “create,” which can kill creativity. Hearing these words coming from Hill, a woman who clearly respects the power of a properly crafted sentence, is refreshing. She acknowledges where story originates and when we’re ready, shows us how to work in a different way.
Probably the best bonus in this book (and there are many) are the checklists in part six. This is great for anyone who is a visual person and likes to physically check off a to-do list to help you feel like you’re making progress. Another reason the checklists are so wonderful is because there is sooo much to polish upon your final draft, you’re bound to overlook something. With these checklists, you’re less likely to let silly errors pass you by!
As if the headline for my review doesn’t say it clearly enough, I’ve bookmarked dozens of places for quick access. Magic of Fiction has become my number-one resource for writing and editing my fiction. The English language is a lovely thing, but man-oh-man, is it flooded with rules and exceptions. It’s simply not easy for me to remember every little thing. Knowing I can pick up this book and find the answer I need is like a miracle at work. Can you tell I’m a fan???
With so many writers today self-publishing, and traditional authors moving into self-publishing, we can no longer rely on the old gatekeepers who were there to vet a book to see if it was interesting and readable, and to provide all the different kinds of editing (line editing, copy editing, developmental editing). So writers have been turning to all kinds of sources for help.
For a long time, my go-to source has been The Editors Blog created by Beth Hill (add .net to that to get to the actual blog). So I was jumping-up-and-down excited to see that she’d compiled that wealth of information (and so much more!) into this book. I confess I have a lot of how-to-write books on my shelf, and how-to-edit, and those authors all had interesting things to say. But it’s unlikely I’ll be reaching for them anymore. Why hunt through a half dozen books when just this one will do?
This is a HUGE book. Massive. Over 600 pages. And not a bit of “fat” or “fluff” in there. While you can read it straight through (and I do love Ms. Hill’s gentle, straightforward, and often humorous style), this is really meant to be used like any other reference book. It’s essentially two books in one—one on the mechanics of crafting a great story, and one on how to edit, revise, and fine-tune that story once it’s written.
For me, reading straight through the first sections (sections 1-3), on how to craft a story, was enlightening and useful. Later sections, geared more toward editing, are best approached on an as-needed basis (her “Punctuation in Dialogue” article has been accessed thousands of times on her web site and is included in this reference book). Just yesterday I pored over the section on how to properly write numbers in fiction.
In my opinion, by far the most useful part of this book is the checklists found in section six, on editing. If you’re the sort of person who likes to actually physically check things off, you might be happier with the PDF version of this book so you can print those lists off over and over. Or you can just scan the pages in this version. Or, if you’re like me, just use the checklists as they are, as visual reminders of all the things that need to be reviewed to make a story the best it can be.
Like I said, I have a lot of other books on writing. I expect they’ll be gathering dust on my shelves. This book, however, sits right on my desk, where I can grab it every time I need it. It’s like having a top-notch editor sitting at my elbow, whispering in my ear, and encouraging me as I work!