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"
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.
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.
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.
This book is a must-listen for any writer that doesn't already know everything- pretty much everyone!
This has been the best book on craft that I have come across in the vast genre of fiction craft books...IMO, it is better than any James Scott Bell &/or any other more contemporary writing book I've read.
Straightforward, easily absorbed, perfect depth of information & examples to illustrate concepts.
Read any Sol Stein book and you will see he is the best kind of teacher--he exemplifies in his writing what he teaches.
He seems to have mastered EVERY aspect of the business of writing.
Narration was perfect for the informative tone of the book
Urban planner. Environmentalist. Geek.
One of the most important principles of good writing is "show, don't tell," but it can be hard to understand exactly what that means. This book is worth reading for his careful explanation of that distinction alone. The rest is gravy.
Of course, some of the rules offered need to be taken as suggestions. Hilariously, he says no book called Twilight could succeed.