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

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  643 ratings  ·  91 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 February 2nd 2004)
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Chance Maree
Jul 21, 2013 Chance Maree rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Cathy
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
...more
Rose
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
Jeanie
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
...more
Michael
(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
...more
Keryn
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
Bill
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
...more
Lewis Weinstein
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
...more
Kim Fay
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
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
Mar 17, 2008 Jocelyn rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Jeana
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
...more
Deb
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
...more
D.w.
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
...more
Sonya
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
...more
R.L.
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
...more
Christine Sunderland
Dec 12, 2009 Christine Sunderland rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Michael
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
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
Lauren
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'
...more
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
...more
Lynne Favreau
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
...more
Christine


BY GEORGE, I THINK I'VE READ IT!

"Write Away" holds a prominent place on my "Read Frequently [While Writing]" shelf. As I can't help doing with instructional books, I read this one in a haphazard fashion--picking it up here & there, flipping to the chapters that covered the particular writing question I had at the time. I'm pretty sure that at some point I read every page!

With each chapter, Ms. George sparked my thoughts & creativity, sharing insights & work methods that proved valua
...more
Evelyn Puerto
When I picked up Write Away, I had never heard of the author, Elizabeth George. All I knew of her book is that several authors have said this is a “must read.” I’m inclined to agree with them.

Write Away is an excellent overview of the craft of writing, from the perspective of how one successful author creates her novels. She clearly is in the camp of those who plot more up front before starting to write, but that resonates with me. More planning up front does free your mind for the art, rather t
...more
Margot
This is one of the best books on writing that I have read so far. It provides practical insight and advice and really gets down into the dirty details of process and perseverance. Despite George's crime novel background, her advice and insight is practical for any genre.

My only complaint with the book is that she frequently uses her own writing as example for the techniques or issues she's discussing. I find this both pompous and wearing. How many little snippets of scenes do I really have to r
...more
Winna
Nov 05, 2008 Winna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Windry
Shelves: self-learning
This book is perfect for a beginner with no experience or any idea about writing at all. However, for beginners and experts who have tried writing and become successful in it, this book merely serves as a guide to remind them what they have to do.

This book is all about craft of writing. Technique, plotting, voice, process. Sadly, I feel that this is so similar to James Frey's how to write a damn good novel. Many chapters and samples are similar, therefore I feel like reading the same book twice.
...more
Wendy
This turned out to be one of my favorite writing books written by a bestselling author (Stephen King's On Writing and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird being tied for my favorite). She caught my attention early on when she described herself as mostly left-brained (like me) and her subsequent need for a logical writing process and strategy to liberate her right-brained creative side.

George covers a wide range of territory in the book on the craft of writing, but what was most interesting to me was the
...more
Kevin Black
I think the utility of this book may depend on the personality and style of the aspiring writer. It suited me well. George has written a number of well-selling novels, I think mostly mysteries. She approaches her work as much as an artisan as an artist. She notes that planning and organization are important investments up front that make the writer's job much easier later. She takes several pages to counter the concern that all this work and preparation takes the inspiration and creativity out o ...more
Ray
Novelist Elizabeth George (author of the Inspector Lynley mysteries) shows the refreshingly left-brained process she uses to craft novels with tight, character-based plots. Her process is heavily front-loaded with background research, character creation, and plotting in advance, which allows her to focus on the art of writing when it finally comes time to draft the novel itself. This is almost the polar opposite of Stephen King's approach given in "On Writing," where King encourages the writer t ...more
Tiah
Interesting, and very glad to have read it. Gave me some new ideas on how to tackle different aspects of the 'getting ready to write' part of writing.

Would recommend the book to an individual who wants a step by step formula on creating a story. (Not suggesting EG writes formula fiction.) That said, her methods may strangle some writers / writers-to-be. Could see people following this book becoming so wrapped up in the 'get ready to write' process that the actual sit-down-and-write part of the
...more
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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
...more
More about Elizabeth George...
A Great Deliverance (Inspector Lynley, #1) Well-Schooled in Murder (Inspector Lynley, #3) This Body of Death (Inspector Lynley, #16) Payment in Blood (Inspector Lynley, #2) Careless in Red (Inspector Lynley, #15)

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