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Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life Paperback – February 3, 2004
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“A marvelously pragmatic initiation to the art of writing.”—Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina
“[A] succinct and warmhearted autobiographical meditation on the writing life.”—Publishers Weekly
“A wise, warm-hearted book—part autobiography, part how-to-do-it manual, with some amazingly candid behind-the-scenes material . . . Fantasy fans, novice writers, and even veteran pros will learn plenty from it.”—Robert Silverberg, award-winning author of the Majipoor Chronicles
From the Inside Flap
In addition to being a writing guide, Sometimes the Magic Works is Terry Brookss self-portrait of the artist. If you dont think there is magic in writing, you probably wont write anything magical, says Brooks. This book offers a rare opportunity to peer into the mind of (and learn a trick or two from) one of fantasy fictions preeminent magicians.
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writing advice. I have not read any of Terry Brooks' fiction, mainly because of the time it would take to read fantasy
Brooks started out with some advantages in life, and he has made the most of them. A lawyer, he kept his day job
till it was time to take some risks and write full-time.
The advice is mostly for genre fiction, since I think literary fiction is more about use of language, and sometimes
experimental. I found the book useful since it has sped up my learning curve in learning how to write.
It's also not a full memoir, but simply a collection of essays on his experiences with the writing life. In that it's fine. It's very similar (though not as lyrical) as Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You in that it combines memoir with encouraging people to dream. It doesn't, though, come close to the depth or usefulness of King's On Writing or Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life , both of which Brooks praises.
So the strange thing is, while I expected a book on craft, I actually looked forward to reading each day's chapter. Hardly ever dry or dull, Brooks comes across as sincere, smart, and humble. There's none of the arrogance of Sol Stein's books, but simply someone who got lucky doing the work he loves, and I enjoyed these essays.
In short, if you're totally new to writing and want a nice introduction to one author's experiences, it's fine. You don't need to be a fan of his work or even wish to write fantasy. (By the way, after I read the book, I found Brooks' website has a Q&A with 25,000 words just on Writing alone, so you can check that out to see what kind of advice he offers.)
If you've already read a few books on the craft of writing, though, and are looking to learn more, this book tells you very little, and you'd be much better off with something like Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers .
To give you a better idea of whether this book is for you, I've included a look at each chapter in the Comments. From looking at that, it'd seem as though there's a lot there about writing, but Brooks skims over most everything. For instance, in the chapter about how Lester Del Rey critiqued his second book with pages and pages of notes pointing out all his mistakes, Brooks writes: "What he had given me was the kind of education young writers can only dream about - the kind you hope and pray you might find in college writing programs, writing conferences, or even from editors, but seldom do."
But what does Brooks share of it? Nothing. Not one word. Even though "I learned more about the craft of writing and about being a writer through that one experience than I learned from all the other writing experiences of my life combined," all we're left with is that - how grateful he was.
In contrast, Stephen King's "On Writing" shows you exactly how a newspaper editor corrected his story and what he learned from it, and Lamott's book details how her own second novel was rejected and every step she took to improve it.
So again, it's a nice collection of reminiscing by a likable guy, but there's many better books on writing.
Think of this as sort of a comic con panel by a guy who loves to write for people who love to write. A really fun little read.
One thing, I bought this for kindle on sale for $2, but the ebook price is back up to $13 as of now. That's a lot of money for something this short. I do not blame the author. The publisher sets the price. I'm not saying it's not worth $13. I'm just saying it's really short. Know what you're going to get after you pay for it.
Top international reviews
Terry explores the many areas of novel writing in the book, from characterisation, to dialog, to "show and tell", and provides an incredibly interesting and insightful look at both the writing and editing process. He covers all of the pitfalls of choosing to write as a career with a wealth of superb examples and anecdotes, and shares his skill and knowledge with great passion.
This is a book that will appeal not only to fans of Terry, but to anyone considering a career in writing, or interested in the creative and business sides of the profession. If you're a Terry fan, you will get to know him considerably better, and if you're an amateur writer, by the time you've read this book, you will be significantly less amateur. A great read.
I have been writing a novel now for a few years without reading a book like this. The book is Ideal for those people writing who have trouble planning and leave it open. Since reading this book I have found a real direction for my book it has helped me alot. If you have read any Terry Brooks novels then after reading this you can get a real insight into terry brookes mind and the way he writes. Fantastic book!!!!