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The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises

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Successfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles - against the page, against one's own self-doubt, against rebellious characters, etc. Featuring timeless, innovative, and concise writing strategies and focused exercises, this book is the ultimate battle plan and more - it's Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" for novelists. Tactics Successfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles - against the page, against one's own self-doubt, against rebellious characters, etc. Featuring timeless, innovative, and concise writing strategies and focused exercises, this book is the ultimate battle plan and more - it's Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" for novelists. Tactics and exercises are provided on idea generation and development, character building, plotting, drafting, querying and submitting, dealing with rejection, coping with envy and unrealistic expectations, and much more.


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Successfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles - against the page, against one's own self-doubt, against rebellious characters, etc. Featuring timeless, innovative, and concise writing strategies and focused exercises, this book is the ultimate battle plan and more - it's Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" for novelists. Tactics Successfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles - against the page, against one's own self-doubt, against rebellious characters, etc. Featuring timeless, innovative, and concise writing strategies and focused exercises, this book is the ultimate battle plan and more - it's Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" for novelists. Tactics and exercises are provided on idea generation and development, character building, plotting, drafting, querying and submitting, dealing with rejection, coping with envy and unrealistic expectations, and much more.

30 review for The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises

  1. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I tend to lump writing books into two categories, the inspirational anyone-can-write stuff and the technical understand-your-craft stuff. Instead, this is inspirational understand-your-craft stuff. It's kind of brilliant. The first section, Reconnaissance, offers ways to mentally prepare for a writing career. Stay hungry, but never appear desperate. Develop improvement programs for aspects of your writing so that you're always learning, even after you're agented and published. Don't compare your I tend to lump writing books into two categories, the inspirational anyone-can-write stuff and the technical understand-your-craft stuff. Instead, this is inspirational understand-your-craft stuff. It's kind of brilliant. The first section, Reconnaissance, offers ways to mentally prepare for a writing career. Stay hungry, but never appear desperate. Develop improvement programs for aspects of your writing so that you're always learning, even after you're agented and published. Don't compare your career to another writer's (therein lies madness). Stop googling yourself. (LOL.) The middle section on Tactics covers the must-haves of great fiction and although there are good reminders, the suggestions are not surprising. (They'll be very familiar, in fact, if you've read Bell's other books.) There's still a gem or two in there, like the mini-plan he offers to writers too excited about a project to do any lengthy planning. The last section, Strategy, is about the publishing business. He offers advice on when, whether, and why to pursue representation by an agent. There are brief sections on time management, professionalism, networking, and handling rejection with grace. I'm always interested in what these books have to say about social media and development of your author platform, and I liked the way Bell summed up his opinion in that section title: "Promote as you will, but never let it affect your ability to write your best book." I have been devouring technique-oriented books here while spinning my wheels on revisions of my "best book." The author friend that loaned me Bell's Plot & Structure also loaned me this book. I was hungry for the other, but when she handed me this one, too, I was like, "Ugh, that looks inspirational." And, indeed it was, but exactly in the way that I needed. I accidentally spilled coffee on her copy of Plot & Structure. (If you're reading this, don't worry! I bought you a new one!). I liked this so much, I'm tempted to spill coffee on it, too. :)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    The last 20% was much less useful as it was all about agents and traditional publishing, but I got a lot out of the first 80%.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ien Nivens

    42 pages in, Bell confirms much of the thinking I've come around to over time about writing. Common sense expressed uncommonly well.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Miller

    Trying to structure this like Sun Tzu's classic was an interesting idea, but didn't really work from the start. I get where Mr. bell was trying to go with it, but in the end it just made the book seem a little disorganized and helter-skelter. That was frustrating. Also, the nook never quite seemed to park long enough on any given topic to really unpack it, so I couldn't recommend it as anything but a beginner's guide. That being said,this book did create its fair share of ah-ha moments for me. Lo Trying to structure this like Sun Tzu's classic was an interesting idea, but didn't really work from the start. I get where Mr. bell was trying to go with it, but in the end it just made the book seem a little disorganized and helter-skelter. That was frustrating. Also, the nook never quite seemed to park long enough on any given topic to really unpack it, so I couldn't recommend it as anything but a beginner's guide. That being said,this book did create its fair share of ah-ha moments for me. Lots of them could be missed if you read them too fast, but they were there. Little sprinkles of writing wisdom. Precious things. For example, I now know how to edit dialogue. And turns out, It's actually simple enough. Exciting stuff. In the end, Art of War wasn't the best craft book I've ever read, but it was far from a waste of my time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Schuyler

    I view writing advice as taking your weapon to a sharpening stone, or cleaning your gun. It gives you the encouragement of knowing you're on the right track, and provides a fresh round of ammunition for the next stage of the writing journey. My favorite part was how short each chapter was--most of them being 2 or 3 5x7 pages. Easy to get through, boiled down to the cleanest, most pithy advice Bell could muster. Whether you're a mother, a student, or simply a busy stay-at-home daughter, that makes I view writing advice as taking your weapon to a sharpening stone, or cleaning your gun. It gives you the encouragement of knowing you're on the right track, and provides a fresh round of ammunition for the next stage of the writing journey. My favorite part was how short each chapter was--most of them being 2 or 3 5x7 pages. Easy to get through, boiled down to the cleanest, most pithy advice Bell could muster. Whether you're a mother, a student, or simply a busy stay-at-home daughter, that makes for easy read. :) I enjoyed going through a section and then thinking about it as I attended to other duties. The best exercise was in section 21 when Bell has you take a few of the movies and books that have impacted you most deeply and pick apart the elements that you are passionate about. Including one or more of these elements in each project, he says, adds a deeper level to any book you take on. To keep a high quality of writing, he encourages readers to scan over this list every so often, to make sure they're not getting off track with their main vision. I found that passion points for me were justice, mercy, passion, perseverance, suffering, friendship, and heroes that set my soul on fire. Another encouraging light bulb moment was in section 29, where he discusses making improvements outside your comfort zone. Sometimes, to really make a character pop off the page (especially for an introverted writer) you have to write their actions and thoughts more explicitly than you yourself would prefer. Bell encouraged writers to delve deeper into the emotions of the character and write it out clearly and vulnerably on paper. I found that to be a rewarding exercise in my last novel rewrite. As Bell says, you can always scale it back later. A couple of times I did--but most times I ended up with a scene much better than the original, because I pushed myself. One of my biggest insecurities was how my writing day looked like--if it was normal and efficient enough. In section 76, Bell collected a 'typical writing day' from a variety of successful authors, and it helped to see that mine really wasn't much different than theirs--especially during the editing stage, when it's basically scarf pizza, sleep, and walk around like a zombie. Some of it is basic methodology that I had knocking around in my head but never bothered to put into words. This book is crisp, reassuring, and avoids writing fads (the biggest detriment to young writers). It gives experienced advice to avoid the worst tactics and pitfalls in the war of words. I highly enjoyed it, and recommend it to any of my writing friends.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I like this author's no-nonsense approach to writing. This is the third book that I've read of his and I enjoy them....mostly because it isn't sugar coated and mostly because it feels honest. He gives advice and offers up suggestions that seem reasonable, not mention practical. And he doesn't give anyone the false illusion that the craft of writing isn't "work".

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tricia Mingerink

    A good little writing book. If you are looking for something in depth, this isn't it. But if you are looking for a quick summary of writing craft and encouragement, then this will fit the bill. Very quick and easy to read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cari

    Writers never stop learning their craft. There's always a way to be better, to make a story tighter, a fresh way to grab a reader by the nuts and jerk them around until the very last punctuation mark. No matter how long I've been writing, no matter how many days I have that make me think I'm "good," there's always something else out there that can help me improve. Even if it's only a short sentence buried in 200 pages, that single sentence is gold, another weapon to add to my arsenal. Maybe it's Writers never stop learning their craft. There's always a way to be better, to make a story tighter, a fresh way to grab a reader by the nuts and jerk them around until the very last punctuation mark. No matter how long I've been writing, no matter how many days I have that make me think I'm "good," there's always something else out there that can help me improve. Even if it's only a short sentence buried in 200 pages, that single sentence is gold, another weapon to add to my arsenal. Maybe it's something basic, a fact I already know, but it's presented with a new spin, comes at me from a fresh angle and smacks me in the face. That's how you learn. That's how you grow. And The Art of War for Writers is an excellent tool, a swift kick in the ass that made me sit up, take notice, and take notes. (Seriously, get out a notebook, because you'll be jotting down notes until your fingers cramp.) I've read a lot of books on writing over the years (check out my writing shelf if you want proof), but with each one I find at least one suggestion that gives my writing extra punch. James Scott Bell has written a guide that gives more than one piece of excellent advice, and this little book is worth far more than its purchase price. The Art of War for Writers covers everything from tips on writing, how to handle the submission process, and, most importantly, how to get your ass in the chair and actually write, which is the foundation that too many "writers" forget about. Writing first, because nothing else happens without those words on the page. Every writer needs this on their shelf. Don't just read it; buy it. I don't say that often, books are expensive after all and most people find the need to eat more pressing, but if you're a writer who recognizes the need to keep learning, buy this book. It's a must-have for the writing shelf.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Lindsay

    Really, really loved this book! I have a "thing" with reading books devoted to the art of writing...I would much rather teach myself how to write by reading some really good fiction, or at least works I can relate to as a writer and reader. I figure that we only have so much time and when there's a free moment, it should be devoted to writing. Well, as usual, this book set me straight. While this book is not exactly a how-to, it gives so much good advice, ideas, and more. I have several pages do Really, really loved this book! I have a "thing" with reading books devoted to the art of writing...I would much rather teach myself how to write by reading some really good fiction, or at least works I can relate to as a writer and reader. I figure that we only have so much time and when there's a free moment, it should be devoted to writing. Well, as usual, this book set me straight. While this book is not exactly a how-to, it gives so much good advice, ideas, and more. I have several pages dog-eared for future reference--like tips on when and how to find an agent, how to weave in backstory (a common concern of mine), what to do with those sections of your book that you like but just don't work with *this* story (save them in another file; they may prove to be useful one day), etc. THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS is easy to read. I read mine in the matter of a couple of days. It is organized easily into three sections all related to the craft of writing and promoting one's work. Each section is brief and to the point. You could read the book in one sitting, or read a tip a day for 77 days. It's great--one I will go back to time and time again, especially when I want to claw by eyeballs out and run for the hills and toss my laptop out the window. Thanks, James Scott Bell. You helped save my eyeballs.

  10. 4 out of 5

    La Katie

    HERE THERE BE SPOILERS Five Things About...The Art of War for Writers 1. This is not a hippy 'write from your heart' kind of book. If that's what you're looking for, pick up 'Bird by Bird' or 'The Tao of Writing.' It's about what it takes to be a professional writer. 2. Every now and then you read something that actually tells it like it is for writers. This does that extremely effectively. It isn't overloaded with cynicism, but it does mean to speak to those who intend to live off their words. 3. I HERE THERE BE SPOILERS Five Things About...The Art of War for Writers 1. This is not a hippy 'write from your heart' kind of book. If that's what you're looking for, pick up 'Bird by Bird' or 'The Tao of Writing.' It's about what it takes to be a professional writer. 2. Every now and then you read something that actually tells it like it is for writers. This does that extremely effectively. It isn't overloaded with cynicism, but it does mean to speak to those who intend to live off their words. 3. It's a great book for reading in nice chunks. The sections are very short, very pointed. 4. Read it in whatever order you think you need to read it in. I spent a lot of time pouring over the first and third sections, which focus on fixing your attitude as a writer and facing the world of publishing. 5. "Onward. Keep fighting. Keep writing."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sheryl Nantus

    I'll admit it - I'm a writing book whore. Every visit to my B&N includes a dash to the reference section to see if there's something there that may help me become a better writer. This is definitely one of those books. I've read and re-read it a number of times, if only to drill some of the good advice into my thick skull. If you're looking for a good book to lay out the art and the business of writing in short, edible chunks, this is it. I'd love to get it in ebook form, but... too expensive! :P I'll admit it - I'm a writing book whore. Every visit to my B&N includes a dash to the reference section to see if there's something there that may help me become a better writer. This is definitely one of those books. I've read and re-read it a number of times, if only to drill some of the good advice into my thick skull. If you're looking for a good book to lay out the art and the business of writing in short, edible chunks, this is it. I'd love to get it in ebook form, but... too expensive! :P

  12. 5 out of 5

    Roni Loren

    I'm discovering that I just kind of love everything James Scott Bell has to say about writing. His advice is always to the point and eminently practical, and he gives great examples to boot. This is an easy, fast read but it's filled with great nuggets of wisdom. The last section is more focused on writers who are still aspiring to publication. But I found the first two parts, especially the section focused on craft to be chock full of tips I wanted to write on index cards and pin up around my o I'm discovering that I just kind of love everything James Scott Bell has to say about writing. His advice is always to the point and eminently practical, and he gives great examples to boot. This is an easy, fast read but it's filled with great nuggets of wisdom. The last section is more focused on writers who are still aspiring to publication. But I found the first two parts, especially the section focused on craft to be chock full of tips I wanted to write on index cards and pin up around my office. A great addition to any writer's craft library.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Raluca

    This was a decent writing book, albeit a bit shallow and simplistic. The whole "Art of war" gimmick was interesting, but it didn't add much to the overall usefulness of the tips mentioned. Lots of fairly good points were listed; unfortunatelly, the author really didn't develop them properly to make an impact. Like many other writing books, this too reads like a recipe, a list of steps you should follow. It never mentions why you should do that and how they work, so don't expect to learn much fro This was a decent writing book, albeit a bit shallow and simplistic. The whole "Art of war" gimmick was interesting, but it didn't add much to the overall usefulness of the tips mentioned. Lots of fairly good points were listed; unfortunatelly, the author really didn't develop them properly to make an impact. Like many other writing books, this too reads like a recipe, a list of steps you should follow. It never mentions why you should do that and how they work, so don't expect to learn much from them. Also, most of the examples used are either from the same decades-old movies everyone mentions in writing books or from authors you've never heard of. In fact, some of the writing samples are ridiculously dull. The book does have its good side, however: it's quite motivating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cecily Wolfe

    Fantastic - plenty of practical advice, humor, and just a whole lot of things that just make sense. Highly recommend for authors as well as any creatives (the writing stuff won't apply, but the general mindset will).

  15. 5 out of 5

    T.E. George

    SIBELLA GIORELLO once closed a note of encouragement to me with a word about how writing was like warfare. Her last thought was, “Lock and Load brother!” James Scott Bell picks up on this idea in this great little manual for every foot soldier whose weapon is a pen or keyboard. The title comes from the much studied, Sun Tzu, a Chinese general who recorded his observations of the art of warfare between 400 and 320 B.C. This is a brutally honest and to-the-point primer on everything writing. James SIBELLA GIORELLO once closed a note of encouragement to me with a word about how writing was like warfare. Her last thought was, “Lock and Load brother!” James Scott Bell picks up on this idea in this great little manual for every foot soldier whose weapon is a pen or keyboard. The title comes from the much studied, Sun Tzu, a Chinese general who recorded his observations of the art of warfare between 400 and 320 B.C. This is a brutally honest and to-the-point primer on everything writing. James Scott Bell is not simply a writer who decided to make some money writing books about writing. He is a master drill instructor, field tactician, and officer training specialist – a Sun Tzu of writing instructors. Reconnaissance – Deals with the mental aspect of writing and how as Bell puts it, “what happens in your head affects everything else. Cautions abound about keeping one’s head clear, checking your ego at the door, and learning to think and therefore act like a serious writer. Tactics – Bell has taught writing for 15 years and here it shares concise and practical tactics for good writing. There is no fluff here; just real-world advice that we all would be wise to heed. Strategy – Advice is offered here for what to do upon entering the “no man’s land of the publishing biz.” There are no form letter examples of how to write a query letter but rather battle plans for the serious writer as he or she enters the fray in the world of agents and publishes and published authors.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Merce Cardus

    Helpful insights for writing warriors. Easy to read. http://bit.ly/10lK4Yt Helpful insights for writing warriors. Easy to read. http://bit.ly/10lK4Yt

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maita Domaoal

    Going down as one of my fave writing books of all time. Highly recommended!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Davie

    A non-fictional interpretation of Sun Tzu's The Art of War as applied to writing fiction. Publishers are not interested in publishing a novel. They want to publish novelists, writers who can build readerships and make money for the company over the long term. You need to position yourself as someone who can deliver the goods. Does this mean not writing what you love? No. But write what you love with eyes wide open. And that's just the start...it's a buy. If you write, you want to beg, borrow, or ste A non-fictional interpretation of Sun Tzu's The Art of War as applied to writing fiction. Publishers are not interested in publishing a novel. They want to publish novelists, writers who can build readerships and make money for the company over the long term. You need to position yourself as someone who can deliver the goods. Does this mean not writing what you love? No. But write what you love with eyes wide open. And that's just the start...it's a buy. If you write, you want to beg, borrow, or steal this one. My Take Right off the bat, Bell addresses a writer's biggest bugaboo: fear. Fear of failure, fear of success. And fear of reading bad reviews! Fear of your Amazon index. Fear of not being as good as the next guy. I loved his writing improvement program, and I intend to add these suggestions to my spreadsheet. It's something that's been sitting at the back of my mind anyway, examples. Examples of authors I admire, paragraphs and pages that sing. Figuring out your weak points. Bell provides excuses to stop writing! Good 'uns, too. Exercises and ideas to restart your creative juices. Improving your writing by finishing the damn book. The writer's credo: A strong sense of story should make your reader wonder what happens next, put your characters in moral, emotional, physical, spiritual ++ difficulties. Pull your reader into the story, suspend their belief. Do this by keeping it real. Remember, there is no TV in the 1800s. Then there are his examples of show over tell: He jumped into his car and drove away - what kind of car was it? You know you'll get a different perspective on the character if he's driving Herbie the Love Bug versus a shiny red Ferrari... She was beautiful - uh-huh. Show how other characters react to her. Describe her so the reader will recognize her on the street. Make your words / phrases sing. Put some magic into the prose style---unobtrusively The sun that brief December day shone weakly through the west-facing window of Garrett Kingsley's office. It made a thin yellow oblong splash on his Persian carpet and gave up. – Robert B. Parker's Pale Kings and Princes She sat up slowly, looked in turn at each of us, and her dark eyes were like twin entrances to two deep caves. Nothing lived in those caves. maybe something had, once upon a time. There were piles of bones back in there, some scribbling on the walls, and some gray ash where the fires had been. – John D. MacDonald's Darker Than Amber He's pretty silly-looking---a gangly, tall guy with hips like doorknobs and unruly, brittle hair that looks like he styles it by sticking his head in a toilet bowl and flushing. – Dennis Lehane's Darkness, Take My Hand He points out that publishers and agents invest in careers. They want to know you can do this over and over again. Bell delves into deeply into character and what's needed to grab the reader, pull her into identifying with the protagonist. I loved his Spencer Tracy method acting technique for fleshing out a character. There's a lovely bit on inner struggle versus inner conflict. He quickly lays out scenes while covering a great deal of ground. Tips and suggestions on how or whether to outline, dealing with that need to leap right in to writing the next great novel, ideas to bash down that writer's block, the appropriate use of the backstory and creating the hook, and using first person point-of-view. He also has a several practical chapters on agents: knowing when---or when not---to get an agent, what the agent wants or doesn't want, and finding an agent. This is followed by shorty chapters on the proposal and includes the query letter, the synopsis, and your tagline and elevator pitch. I'm tellin' ya...it packs a punch for such a short book! The Cover The cover is basic with a red background and crossed "swords", LOL. A katana and an old-fashioned ink pen with nib. The title is a take-off on Sun Tzu's The Art of War applying his tactics to writing. It truly is The Art of War for Writers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    JW

    Actually useful tips lie within!

  20. 4 out of 5

    C.J. Darlington

    The thing I love most about The Art of War for Writers is that every writer, from newbie to seasoned professional, can glean from its pages. You can pick it up at different stops on your journey and learn something new. It inspires even as it spurs you on in your writing career. And that's really the focus of this book--how to develop a career in writing. Says Bell, "The writer must understand the essentials of success for a long-term writing career, and count the cost accordingly." What does th The thing I love most about The Art of War for Writers is that every writer, from newbie to seasoned professional, can glean from its pages. You can pick it up at different stops on your journey and learn something new. It inspires even as it spurs you on in your writing career. And that's really the focus of this book--how to develop a career in writing. Says Bell, "The writer must understand the essentials of success for a long-term writing career, and count the cost accordingly." What does that take? How do you overcome the obstacles along the way? The book's short, meaty chapters share real answers to these questions and more. And while there's certainly some how-to advice on the craft within its pages, Bell has already covered craft techniques in his two noteworthy books Plot & Structure and Revision & Self Editing. The Art of War for Writers is more a battle plan on how to beat the enemies we all face in our writing pursuits. Let's face it--writing is a fight. But in The Art of War we're shown that with the proper attitude and tactics we can be victorious. That's something every writer needs to hear.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    This was such a helpful little book! It is divided into three sections: the first focuses on the mental part of being a writer, the second on craft, and the third on the publishing industry and business. I found the third section especially helpful because, as a young writer, the industry is a big mystery to me. I will reference this book frequently when I begin to seek out publishing. Each section is divided into short, numbered tips for that section's particular focus. The divisions made the b This was such a helpful little book! It is divided into three sections: the first focuses on the mental part of being a writer, the second on craft, and the third on the publishing industry and business. I found the third section especially helpful because, as a young writer, the industry is a big mystery to me. I will reference this book frequently when I begin to seek out publishing. Each section is divided into short, numbered tips for that section's particular focus. The divisions made the book easy to read even for someone who doesn't have long chunks of time very often; I could pick it up, read one or two sections, and easily stop and come back to it later without it feeling disorienting or choppy. I was very excited to see that it had an index...otherwise it would be near impossible to navigate. With the index, I don't have to try to remember everything the book said but can just look up tips if I have a problem or don't know how to do something. This book will have a place on my desk within arm's reach and become an often-used reference material. Highly recommended for any writer!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angela Blount

    This may be the single best resource on writing craft I've found to date. I'd heard a great many glowing things about the skill, wisdom, and artistry of James Scott Bell; and this book in particular. I now realize it essentially contains all of the information it took me 2 years to accumulate through the writing guild I joined. Part field guide, part workbook, part exercise manual--this book ought to be one of the first craft books in the arsenal of every serious writer, regardless of genre. Thou This may be the single best resource on writing craft I've found to date. I'd heard a great many glowing things about the skill, wisdom, and artistry of James Scott Bell; and this book in particular. I now realize it essentially contains all of the information it took me 2 years to accumulate through the writing guild I joined. Part field guide, part workbook, part exercise manual--this book ought to be one of the first craft books in the arsenal of every serious writer, regardless of genre. Though it was written in 2009, nearly everything Bell talks about remains timely and of immense importance. The author's voice, though instructional, is concise and engaging. Parallels to Sun Tzu's 'The Art Of War' ring with cunning and logic. And even the most organized personality could potentially benefit from a number of his tips and suggestions aimed at increasing one's writing efficiency. (I detected a bit of aversion/hostility toward self-publishing, but I suspect that is due to it being written at the beginning of the ebook phenomenon. His focus is clearly traditional publishing.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    David

    This book is extremely useful for any aspiring writer for the sheer volume of tips that James Scott Bell provides here. While most of it consists of quotes from other writers regarding whatever topic is being discussed, it is still handy for two reasons: James does put a lot of his own thoughts and experiences in it, and the quotes are organized in ways you couldn't easily find on the internet, though you could probably find each quote individually. Based primarily (and loosely) off of Sun Tzu's This book is extremely useful for any aspiring writer for the sheer volume of tips that James Scott Bell provides here. While most of it consists of quotes from other writers regarding whatever topic is being discussed, it is still handy for two reasons: James does put a lot of his own thoughts and experiences in it, and the quotes are organized in ways you couldn't easily find on the internet, though you could probably find each quote individually. Based primarily (and loosely) off of Sun Tzu's Art of War, this book is highly unlikely to last for two thousand years, but it's still well worth the investment for any current or aspiring writers of any fiction, but especially for novelists, as much of the advice is specific to that genre of literature.

  24. 5 out of 5

    I.A. Ashcroft

    This book is a kick in the ass. If you want some feel-good writer exercises that'll tell you you're a special snowflake with your unique blend of pantsing and plotting, that's not this. Sometimes positive encouragement is nice, but sometimes you need someone to pick you up, chuck you into your writing chair, and hand you some reality about how you steel yourself to make it in the industry. Best read in short bursts, probably not all at once. Just when you need a kick, I mean. I like it! I did wit This book is a kick in the ass. If you want some feel-good writer exercises that'll tell you you're a special snowflake with your unique blend of pantsing and plotting, that's not this. Sometimes positive encouragement is nice, but sometimes you need someone to pick you up, chuck you into your writing chair, and hand you some reality about how you steel yourself to make it in the industry. Best read in short bursts, probably not all at once. Just when you need a kick, I mean. I like it! I did withhold a star because it is definitely not geared towards writers who intend to self-pub. The overarching presumption in this book is that you are seeking to traditionally publish, and a lot aren't these days. That said, self-pubbers will still find no-nonsense wisdom of use here.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Grace Wagner

    This book is a really interesting adaptation of Sun Tzu's famous work with a literary twist. It approaches writing a book like a battle. From mental preparation to tactics to what to do after you've "won," it covers the entire experience of writing a novel. It does tend to be overarching and big-picture oriented, but the author does a good job of using concrete examples from real books to illustrate his points. It's full of encouragement and big ideas. It get's you to stop and think, then start This book is a really interesting adaptation of Sun Tzu's famous work with a literary twist. It approaches writing a book like a battle. From mental preparation to tactics to what to do after you've "won," it covers the entire experience of writing a novel. It does tend to be overarching and big-picture oriented, but the author does a good job of using concrete examples from real books to illustrate his points. It's full of encouragement and big ideas. It get's you to stop and think, then start writing. The first time I read through it, I kept putting the book down and working on my own book. Any book that gets you to sit down and write must be doing something right.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Riley

    Gifted to me by a friend. Great overview of the entire process -- from passion to publication -- for any new/young writers. The first half is about bigger picture stuff (philosophies and techniques), which I find more inspiring. The second half is more specific (exercises and industry procedures), which is valuable but not new to me. I did feel reinvigorated from reading it, and I do plan to buy a copy for certain people. Note: It's definitely geared for fiction writers, and novelists specificall Gifted to me by a friend. Great overview of the entire process -- from passion to publication -- for any new/young writers. The first half is about bigger picture stuff (philosophies and techniques), which I find more inspiring. The second half is more specific (exercises and industry procedures), which is valuable but not new to me. I did feel reinvigorated from reading it, and I do plan to buy a copy for certain people. Note: It's definitely geared for fiction writers, and novelists specifically.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Meryl

    The Kindle version of this book is so full of formatting errors it is unreadable. Interspersed between the text with missing letters, inconsistent letter spacing and staggered line lengths are images of the pages from the print book. Why? They are so small as to be unreadable on the Kindle screen. I am returning this book, and absolutely disgusted that Mr Bell would put this up without checking AT LEAST ONCE through the text.

  28. 4 out of 5

    J. Dorner

    I enjoyed the style of this book. There are several writing exercises I enjoyed trying out. I wouldn’t suggest it as a first how-to book on writing, but when you’ve read a few and put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) a few times, this is a good one to ignite the spark.

  29. 4 out of 5

    S.A. Larsen

    A MUST HAVE for any writer!! Easy to read. Easy to understand. And concepts for writing easy to apply and practice.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mary Warner

    This book inspires me to try my hand at fiction again.

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