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Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  872 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
Bestselling author Elizabeth George has spent years teaching writing, and in Write Away she shares her knowledge of the creative process. George combines clear, intelligent, and functional advice on fiction writing with anecdotes from her own life, the story of her journey to publication, and inside information on how she meticulously researches and writes her novels. Geor ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2004)
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Chance Maree
Jul 21, 2013 Chance Maree rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beginning writers
Recommended to Chance by: Author Salon
I find hope and encouragement in Elizabeth George's assertion that writing can be taught. For me, this means that writing is something I can learn, and can continue to improve as long as I put work into it. Elizabeth George's philosophy states that a writer will be published if they possess three qualities: talent, passion and discipline. I'm reminded, therefore, to focus on those qualities and nourish them.

I've followed a process similar to George's: conduct research, profile characters, and pl
May 31, 2008 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love reading Elizabeth George's novels. They are, as she calls them, literary mysteries. And they are masterfully plotted. But also contain a lot of scene-setting verbiage that I regularly skip. These passages often seem to take me away from, rather than closer to, the dramatic tension of the current characters and plot.

But the passages remain in all of her best-selling books. So perhaps I should not have been surprised to find that she takes a great deal of time to craft those portions of the
Apr 28, 2013 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-how-to
A Beginner’s How-To on Writing

George, Elizabeth. (2004) Write Away. New York: Harper Collins.

There are a lot of how-to books on writing out there. If you haven’t read any, this one is a reasonable place to start. It’s easy to read, encouraging in tone, covers most of the basics, and has plenty of examples. George is a well-known writer of mysteries and thrillers, and a teacher of writing. She describes her personal understanding of writing fundamentals and her own writing process. The result is
Jun 19, 2012 Keryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
I wrote copious notes from this book for use in my own writing development. Halfway through, I rushed out and bought one of Elizabeth George's novels ('Careless in Red' published after this novel) because I wanted to read it in parallel, in order to experience her craft in action. For she definitely separates art from craft in writing, and this was an 'Aha!' moment for me. I was so fascinated by the aspects of craft illustrated through the excerpts she quotes from her work that I needed to follo ...more
Jan 01, 2013 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was going to write a comprehensive review of this guide, but I decided to go for the short form version since Elizabeth George touches on a lot of topics like character, plotting, among others that are in other writing guides. If you read a lot of writing guides and are a veteran, there's not a lot here that comes across as new territory. I liked this guide and found it worth the read, but slightly cumbersome in some areas. It read a little longer than I thought it would, and part of that was ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(2.5 stars) Disappointing. Somehow the great ones who write about writing manage to speak mostly about other writers that they love (take Stephen King's On Writing, Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel, etc.). But when a writer who is much less known takes many an excerpt from her own novels to exemplify whatever she is discussing, I usually do not stick around too long.

True, King and Card do make occasional references to their own n
May 14, 2015 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
I read mixed reviews of this but I'm so glad I read it, and more important own it. I haven't read any of Elizabeth George's novels because I don't care for mysteries but her information was so helpful and applicable to any type/genre of fiction writing. There were a few excerpts from books that I skimmed through because they were lengthy but I'm glad she included them so you could see what she was talking about. Not only does she talk about POV, grammar, research, character development, she walk ...more
Lewis Weinstein
Jan 30, 2014 Lewis Weinstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Terrific book for any writer. Full of the techniques as well as the angst of writing. Ms. George is a meticulous writer; this book explains how she does it.

Jan 28, 2014 ...

I just referred to this book again - now autographed by Elizabeth in Key West - for her comments on the point of view of the omniscient narrator ...

OMNISCIENT NARRATOR · Must be adept to remain truly omniscient and not just slip in and out of different characters points of view · the narrator knows, sees, hears all · the narr
Kim Fay
Jul 30, 2013 Kim Fay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I've read a writing book, and this one hit the spot. I'm trying to understand the fundamentals of mystery writing, and while Elizabeth George is undoubtedly a mystery writer, this book uses much broader strokes, exploring what make any good story work. She is clear that the processes she describes are what work for her, and that every writer will have his or her own unique process. At the same time, her lessons are reminders of the importance of certain elements, such as ...more
Bob Mayer
Jan 15, 2011 Bob Mayer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I taught with Elizabeth for 7 straight years at the Maui Writers Conference and we now both live on Whidbey Island, a few miles apart. She came and spoke to my last Writers Workshop here on the island and outlined her creative process and it was fascinating as she laid it out. She kept saying the #1 trait to be successful as a writer is the ability to be ruthless. What she meant was ruthless was oneself. To sit and work hard. The one common trait I see in every successful writer I know is the ab ...more
Jocelyn Bailey
Mar 17, 2008 Jocelyn Bailey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: an enemy
Two main exceptions I took with this book:

1) When writing about writing, do not include as examples numerous lengthy excerpts from your own fiction books. Especially when the excerpts are so long that, by the end of them, the reader has forgotten the purpose of reading them in the first place. I find this objectionable in its tackiness.

2) When writing to writers about writing, do not assume that your readers do not know the difference between first and third person. This is inane. Rather than in
This was a case of reading the right book at the right time for me. In Write Away, Elizabeth George describes her own process of creating a novel. Much of what she does is similar to what I've already discovered works for me. Reading her take on it has served to reinforce my own process and provided ideas for expanding on it. She uses some high quality passages from published novels (not just her own) to illustrate her points.

This book might not be of as much help to a pantser, at least not in
Apr 28, 2009 Jeana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to call it quits on this one--I made it through the first 50 pages. This book is directed mainly at people who want to write thriller/detective/murder type stories. This is not something I think applies to what I like to write, so for now, I find this book useless.

The book contains long excerpts from the author's own novels as well as that of others. While I enjoyed to a degree the excerpts from To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved (it actually makes me want to reread Beloved), the excer
May 12, 2009 Deb rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If I had tons of manuscript written, I would find this book more helpful. But since I don't it just makes me worry that writing is too hard and I'll never put in enough effort to do it for real.

The book has a lot of nuts and bolts description about elements of writing that make stories work. Many lengthy examples from novels are included. My favorite parts are probably the quotes from George's personal journals that begin each chapter. I like knowing her own struggles with story, and her involve
Wally Wood
May 17, 2016 Wally Wood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Elizabeth George published Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life in 2004 she was a New York Times best-selling author of a thirteen mysteries. So the book is more than twelve years old, but the information and advice is as timely today as it was the day it came out of George's computer.

She points out that this is "one novelist's approach," and other novelists with other approaches are equally successful. She is relatively undogmatic; the only rule in writing a
Janet Frost
I have had a crush on Elizabeth George and her writing for years. For some reason I have dropped away from reading her books and after this one I have the urge to pick them up again. Hers were books that I shared reading with my Dad who has passed away and every word makes me think of him.
Be that as it may, this book is meant for the fledgling writer. She gives some very logical steps and outlines to work with as you create your story. I have heard her speak and she is a very matter of fact met
Aug 27, 2015 Jaki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like Elizabeth George's books and have an interest in her writing process, you should definitely read this book!

While there are lots of writing guides out there and some advice will be familiar, and some quite different, George makes a good point that discipline is the most important attribute needed to create publishable prose. She is open with the idea that what works for her may not be what works for you. Another much less flattering review here compared it to "recipes" and I think tha
Mar 13, 2014 D.w. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
For the beginning writer, or one young in the craft this is quite a good resource. One I can recommend to those who are just joining the ranks of we who write. It is not an easy craft, and as George puts it, one of the three parts you need is Diligence. Such as reading books on craft, as well as writing each day.

George gives many examples from her work and others to bring forth ideas that resonate. Though some a skilled writer might not adopt for they are already set in their ways, some ideas a
Mar 07, 2014 Sonya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-craft
Elizabeth George in Write Away covers the craft of writing. She is forthright in admitting that she cannot help in the art of writing---that is your talent, but she gives options with every step of the writing craft, or skill.
She answered many problems that I struggled in my manuscript--giving freedom when others may have said it cannot be done.
She presents the writing process in a candid, nonsensical way. Her down-to-earth presentation and many examples made me feel like she was right beside
Apr 11, 2016 Alison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. A good refresher on the basics and it was interesting to see George's process, but with every excerpt from one of her novels, I grew that much more certain that I will never. ever. read them. Crime fiction is definitely not my genre but more than that, they were slow and boring. Some of the excerpts she chose from other books kept my attention, but I really had to struggle to flip the pages during passages from her novels.

I have a small quibble with her "go to the place you are writing abo
Aug 13, 2014 R.L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth George in her book Write Away says that she tells her students on the first day of her creative writing courses:

“You will be published if you possess three qualities – talent, passion, and discipline. You will probably be published if you possess two of the three qualities in either combination – either talent and discipline, or passion and discipline. You will likely be published if you possess neither talent nor passion but still have discipline … but if all you possess is talent or
Jun 15, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book explained in great detail exactly how Ms. George writes her books. It is a college class on creative writing in paperback form. Fantastic.

Cate Price
Jan 22, 2015 Cate Price rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second time I've read this, and it's one of those books that can teach you something new each time, depending where you are in your writing growth and career. Definitely a keeper.
Thank you, Elizabeth George.
Christine Sunderland
Dec 12, 2009 Christine Sunderland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Novelists of any genre
Very informative as I jump into writing my fifth novel... She is the most thorough instructor on plotting and character I have come across, insisting that it can all be learned and with hard work can be produced. We shall see.
Apr 20, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Novelist Elizabeth George provides practical advice about writing a novel. She uses examples from other writers works as well as her own to show elements of the craft. Although I have written six novels, I enjoy books such as hers because they provide a refresher for me when I stray away from what I need to do. It's also reassuring to see when you share some of the same habits. George is a former high school English teacher who wasn't an overnight success. She was turned down on her first two ma ...more
S.W. Gordon
Jan 09, 2014 S.W. Gordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "cakewalk" in modern usage refers to something that is "easy and effortless" but it traces its origins to a type of improvisational Jazz-dance performed by slaves on plantations in the Southern US during the late 1800's. I suspect the original performers made the dance "look" easy and effortless and perhaps this criteria was used to select the winner (i.e. who would "take the cake"). It's not a bad analogy for writing: a brilliant writer can make something complex and difficult seem easy and e ...more
Feb 03, 2014 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be quite helpful to my understanding of the writer's process. George's process in particular is appealing to me as it requires great research and planning BEFORE the writing begins. I'm not personally comfortable with just free-flow writing, going with an idea to see where it takes me (as other writers propose).

At times, I found the lengthy excerpts from George's own works to be annoying, but I understand that, for her, it is probably the easiest way to demonstrate what she'
Judy Richey
Aug 31, 2016 Judy Richey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

If you are SERIOUS about wanting to write a novel, You MUST HAVE this Book!!!! ALL your questions are answered HERE! Forgive my dramatic flourishes, but if you want be a writer, THIS is the BOOK.

Ms. George describes in exact detail HOW to create a finished saleable product. From concept to "The End", Ms. George has provided a intellectual "full frontal" of all aspects of producing a saleable piece of novel writing, in a detailed and clear way.

She tells you HOW TO DO IT!! Am I excited? YES, I was
Lisa (Harmonybites)
This is less well-known than Stephen King's memoir and book on craft, but only slightly less loved among the writing books on my bookshelves. An editor once told me that if you're going to take advice on writing, take it either from name-bestselling writers or gatekeepers such as acquiring editors or agents--not necessarily anyone who writes for Writer's Digest or has taught a writing class.

And Elizabeth George fits the bill. She's the bestselling writer of the The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, wh
Lynne Favreau
Mar 15, 2012 Lynne Favreau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
What a relief this book was. I really needed someone to spell out exactly how this writing thing works and here she does it “Start here, move on to here and pretty soon you’ll have this-” is how this book feels. That’s what I’ve been wanting and needing to understand—the progression, the advancing of a story.

I realize every writer will have their own way of working but for someone just starting out, who hasn’t developed any patterns or particular way of structuring the way they work, this is an
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Susan Elizabeth George is an American author of mystery novels set in Great Britain. Eleven of her novels, featuring her character Inspector Lynley, have been adapted for television by the BBC as The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.

She was born in Warren, Ohio, but moved to the S
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