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The Art of War for Writers

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  915 ratings  ·  132 reviews
Strategies and Tactics for the Master NovelistSuccessfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles. You not only have to work hard to shape memorable characters, develop gripping plots, and craft dazzling dialogue, but you also have to fight against self-doubts and fears. And then there's the challenge of learning to navigate t ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Writer's Digest Books (first published November 11th 2009)
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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.
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 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
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!
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
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 ...more
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
La Katie

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
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 ...more
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's a buy. If you write, you want to beg, borrow, or ste
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.
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 ...more
J. d'Merricksson
Bell's The Art of War for Writers is a pretty nifty little book that I picked up as a self-reward for achieving a writing goal. Hey, why not? Craft can always be improved, and this book can certainly help with that, whether you are a green recruit or a seasoned veteran.

This book is an overview book, making it no less useful, I might add. I found nuggets of information to store away and ponder that had been phrased perfectly in this book to get through my thick skull, even though I've read simil
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 ...more
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
Donna Cummings
Lots of great advice, in bite-sized portions, and with splashes of humor. I'm glad to have this to flip through for inspiration and motivation in the future.
Definitely a book I want to buy and keep at my writing desk. Excellent, excellent advice.
Any writing reference book, even a tip books, is hard to review. Because its information is presented in a small, quickly digestible bits, a lot can be covered, but not in great depth or detail. Instead of being tied down to one subject and sticking to it, it tries to cover a lot of ground, and some things might be repeated or familiar.

However, I found this tip book to be quite good, and want to read more of James Scott Bell's works in the future.

The Art of War for Writers is a writing reference
E Walburg
Overall this book is a decent guide to the business end of writing.

There are some exercises on craft and plenty on just getting words on paper. It's not a theoretical craft book, and it doesn't pretend to be, so I would say this book is good for intermediate or even "advanced" writers: someone who has already had some training and may need an extra boost in generating content and where to go once that content is created.

The first two sections, "Reconnaissance" and "Tactics" respectively, were
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 ...more
Ari Sims
This was my first book on professional fiction writing. The material was expressed in a unique, metaphorical way. The book was basically broken up into 2 sections: tips and things to consider when writing your story and the second part was all about the do's and don'ts of finding an agent and getting published. I was more interested in the first half the book.

I think this would be a good book for those starting out in fiction writing. I've written some novels myself but I need extra training and
This is a fantastic book with great and practical advice for writers. I can't wait to read his other books and use his techniques.
Tim Knox
Mandatory reading in most businesses. I wish someone woud make a movie.
Merce Cardus
Helpful insights for writing warriors. Easy to read.
This was an incredibly helpful and highly motivating read for me. Several times I had to put the book down because reading it made me want to write so badly that it seemed a waste not to do it right away.

The Art of War for Writers offers plenty of advice on how to improve your writing and it does so by getting straight to the point and providing helpful examples and comparisons. I also found the last part (Strategy) of the book very insightful since it deals with the publishing industry and what
I will admit, I was drawn to this for two reasons unrelated to the specifics of the book itself. The first reason was for its delightfully bold cover design—yes I judge books by their covers. Secondly, it is a book about writing, and I have a long-standing weakness for such books, from compendiums of quotes about writing, to books about Point of View in writing (it looks like a textbook and sounds dull, but is really quite helpful and interesting—these are the impulse buys I make in the bookstor ...more
Kym McNabney
I had heard others mention THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS: FICTION WRITING STRATEGIE, TACTICS, AND EXERCISES by JAMES SCOTT BELL, and to be honest, I resisted purchasing it. I don’t always believe all the hype. That is until I spotted this tiny book at a writing conference a few years back. I finally relented and made the decision to purchase it. Still, it sat on my shelf of books to be read. Now, years later, I finally read it.

Wow! I do believe that God gives you what you need, just when you need
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.

I will start with what The Art of War for Writers (AoWW) says of itself:

“You’ll find tactics and strategies for idea generation and development, character building, plotting, drafting, querying and submitting, dealing with rejection, coping with unrealistic expectations, and much more.

With timeless, innovative, and concise writing reflections and techniques, The Art of War for Writers is your roadmap to victory.” (full description can be found on Amazon)

Sounds extremely useful, right? A “roadm
Amanda G. Stevens
The usefulness of this book depends on how many craft books one has read before. Some of these tips are nothing new (backstory and how not to use it, character inner conflict, foreshadowing the plot), and many of them aren't too deep. They can't be, since each "chapter" is more of a blog-post-length quick tip. But just as I started thinking thus, I would read something like the chapter on story and redemption and simply have to share it with writer friends.

One small issue--learn point of view e
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Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes and speaks full time. He is the bestselling author of Try Dying, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, and was a fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine. He has written two books in the Writers' Digest serie ...more
More about James Scott Bell...
Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel Presumed Guilty Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense

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