- Paperback: 210 pages
- Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (February 3, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345465512
- ISBN-13: 978-0345465511
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life Paperback – February 3, 2004
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In Sometimes the Magic Works, author Terry Brooks mixes advice on writing with stories from his personal experience in publishing. A seasoned fantasy writer with 19 books under his belt, including the New York Times bestseller The Sword of Shannara, Brooks began his second career in middle age when he gave up his law practice to pursue writing full time. His move was fueled by an obsession with writing, ("If I don't write, I become restless and ill-tempered"), inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien, and constant encouragement from publisher Lester del Rey. Some of Brooks's advice is specific and useful, such as the chapter he dedicates to the importance of outlining. However, the lessons he tries to tell through his own adventures tend to be self-serving. Still, Brooks's experiences could be particularly interesting and valuable to fans of his fantasy novels--and aspiring authors of their own. --Lacey Fain --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
"If you don't think there is magic in writing, you probably won't write anything magical," Brooks asserts in this succinct and warmhearted autobiographical meditation on the writing life. He views his success as a miracle and credits editor Lester del Rey ("What he had given me was the kind of education young writers can only dream about") for his discovery and Tolkien for the inspiration that drove him to choose fantasy adventure as his medium. Brooks, who practiced law before becoming a full-time author, stills finds himself amazed that his The Sword of Shannara "sold in record numbers and changed the face of publishing," becoming the first fiction title to land on the New York Times trade paperback bestseller list. He still marvels that del Rey chose his first novel to prove that post-Tolkien epic fantasy could sell in vast numbers and that it launched a new generation of fantasy authors. Brooks often refers to his old mentor's sage advice ("Thinking about a book before you wrote it was as important as the writing itself") and promotes outlines ("You can either do the hard work up front or do it at the end"). He also discusses the disappointments encountered in a 30-plus-year career that has seen struggles with a novelization (Hook) and less than stellar sales for some works not connected to the Shannara empire; yet he keeps a positive attitude about the writer's never-ending quest, which requires "determination, instinct, and passion."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.