I am a big fan of Ayn Rand and happened to read her "Art of Fiction" before reading "Stein on Writing." It is interesting that the books give opposite advice.
Rand advises that the plot is the most important aspect of a novel and must be a purposeful progression of events demonstrating some sort of value. She calls this Romantic writing. Rand advises against Naturalistic writing, of telling a make-believe story with no purpose, because in that case your time would be better spent writing non-fiction.
Stein is firmly in the Naturalistic camp. And, his book contains sections that are insulting to people who enjoy Romantic novels. For example, he puts down all Ian Fleming novels as being written for simplistic people.
I happen to like the writing of Rand and Fleming. I aspire to write something approaching their work in greatness. Therefore, Stein has only provided me with ideas on what not to do.
John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"
Now that I have listened to this book I will have to buy a hard copy. There was not enough room on my MP3 player for all of the bookmarks. This is a book you will want to dog ear.
Sol Stein (whose editorial credentials are impeccable) brings to this guide to writing are real humility in the face of the authors with whom he has worked, and a real understanding of the dynamics of creating characters, developing plot and fleshing out themes and ideas. He manages to be precise without being pedantic, structured without ever being formulaic. For the novice writer, his insights, ideas and principles are invaluable
I've already listened to this three times, and I will undoubtedly listen to it again. One of four essential writing guides, and the best of the four. In fact, it's the best one I've ever read.
You may also want "Steal this Plot", "The Power of Point of View" and "Writer's Guide to Character Traits". If you are interested in writing in the romance genre, then "How to Write Romances" by Phyllis T. Pianka is also veryworthwhile.
Unfortunately, that's about it as far as actual techniques and discussion of the craft of writing. Everything else I've seen has been a popular discussion for folks who do not write and who are clueless about the publishing process. If you are a writer who wants to learn how to improve your writing with concrete techniques, this is the book for you.
I compared Sol Stein to Ayn Rand and he comes out on top. I've listened to him several times and keep picking up bits of advice I missed previously. I like how he separates fiction from nonfiction. His examples of other great writers who have been humbled at the beginning of their careers but were smart enough to pay heed to what the experts told them are relevant. You don't need to be brilliant to write brilliantly.
The book provided a lot of examples of good writing and excellent writing by applying the techniques mentioned. Even for someone who is only looking to improve her writing (not necessarily get published) would benefit from this book.
I practice the advice of cutting out adverbs and adjectives. Is the writing still saying the same thing with less words?
Im 40 now, and have not done much writing outside of highschool and college assignments. And I admit, if it were not for audiobooks, I would have no connection with books. But that said, I do enjoy a good story, and Ive started to dabble a bit in writing, and thought Id give this book a try, as Im ready and eager to learn more.
What I expected was a dry 'technical manual' on where to put punctuation, and what pro-nouns were and all that. What I got was a wonderfully rich exposure to what the purpose of a writer really is (to manipulate the readers experience), how to flesh out and define your characters and to understand various methods to revising and rewriting your work. All of this backed up by solid examples that show how authors (some bestsellers) have succeeded or fallen short of these ideas. And I found it fascinating.
This book has changed my appreciation for all that an author does, and all the responsibilities I must live up to when I write. And these lessons I will also apply in my artwork, comic books, and other story telling forms.
Again, I thought it it was going to be painfully slow and bland. Yet I found every chapter to be an insight on fresh ways to look at my writing/storytelling. And for me, it was fantastic and I only wish I was aware of these concepts earlier in life, as they are that profound.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Stein???s book is a writer???s road map. Writers see the highways and streets of writing a good story. Stein???s map reveals where a story begins, which roads to follow, and where a story ends. He explains how to write actionably. Do not write ???he was upset???, write, ???He threw an ash tray through the living room window, sprinkling shards of glass across a brown patch of grass???. The first line is vague. It is telling the reader that the character is upset. The second line shows action. It makes the reader decide on the character???s mood. A good writer is emoting readers to feel character emotion. He does not tell the reader what to think. On Stein???s map, this is the beginning of good story telling.
Stein offers more and says it better.
This is a book for the reference shelf; to be read; to be listened to; again and again.