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The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises (Kindle Edition)

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,023 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
Successfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles - against the page, against one's own self-doubt, against rebellious characters, etc. Featuring timeless, innovative, and concise writing strategies and focused exercises, this book is the ultimate battle plan and more - it's Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" for novelists. Tactics ...more
Kindle Edition
Published January 21st 2011 by Writers Digest Books (first published November 11th 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ien Nivens
Jun 10, 2011 Ien Nivens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
42 pages in, Bell confirms much of the thinking I've come around to over time about writing. Common sense expressed uncommonly well.
Jun 05, 2015 Schuyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2016 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I like this author's no-nonsense approach to writing. This is the third book that I've read of his and I enjoy them....mostly because it isn't sugar coated and mostly because it feels honest. He gives advice and offers up suggestions that seem reasonable, not mention practical. And he doesn't give anyone the false illusion that the craft of writing isn't "work".

Sheryl Nantus
Jul 28, 2010 Sheryl Nantus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 05, 2011 T.E. George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2012 Leslie Lindsay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 03, 2012 La Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-things-reviews

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
Apr 16, 2013 Roni Loren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
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
C.J. Darlington
Feb 16, 2015 C.J. Darlington rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-how-to
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
Kathy Davie
Aug 13, 2013 Kathy Davie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
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
I.A. Ashcroft
Jan 02, 2016 I.A. Ashcroft rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a kick in the ass. If you want some feel-good writer exercises that'll tell you you're a special snowflake with your unique blend of pantsing and plotting, that's not this. Sometimes positive encouragement is nice, but sometimes you need someone to pick you up, chuck you into your writing chair, and hand you some reality about how you steel yourself to make it in the industry.

Best read in short bursts, probably not all at once. Just when you need a kick, I mean. I like it! I did wit
Sep 11, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
P.J. Lazos
Nov 14, 2015 P.J. Lazos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell kicks writing butt by coupling the principles set forth by the great military strategist, Sun Tzu (544-496 B.C.), a general, philosopher, and all around savvy guy, as well as author of one of the first military treatise ever written. Sun Tzu’s time honored strategies are transferable, it seems, as Bell ingeniously applies proven military tactics to the art of writing. That writers have employed many of these exercises since the first stories were t ...more
Virginia Holmes
Pretty good. I think there are some useful discussions in this book, especially in terms of useful information about agents and publishing. This is more a book of useful, encouraging, helpful, and heavily opinionated snippets on a vast string of topics. I've never read Sun Tzu, so I'm not sure if the style matches that text. It could. It is formatted in such a way as to make the sections or topics easily readable on the go and in quick bits.

I enjoyed it. And there are things in there I underlin
J. d'Merricksson
Aug 23, 2015 J. d'Merricksson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 09, 2013 Riley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013
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
Nov 23, 2014 Donna Cummings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 09, 2015 Meryl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-books
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.
Charles Ray
Jan 11, 2016 Charles Ray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best-selling author James Scott Bell channels the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu in The Art of War for Writers, a book of strategies, tactics, and exercises to help a writer navigate the terrain of creating characters and plots that will captivate readers.
Writing, Bell maintains, is a lot like waging war, and using the tactics of Sun Tzu, Bell takes readers on a journey through the campaign of bringing stories to life in a way that makes perfect sense. The final chapter alone is worth the price of
E Walburg
Feb 05, 2015 E Walburg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, writing
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
Shayna Marks
I think I may have enjoyed this more if I was a less experienced writer. That being said, Bell does offer a lot of solid advice about writing as well as anecdotes and inspiration from other well-known authors to support his claims. It just turns out that I have read a lot of books on writing and much of this information is old news to me.

I did have a couple of problems with the formatting of this book though. First, the sections are super short and to the point. This very much reads like a text
Grace Wagner
Feb 23, 2014 Grace Wagner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 2015 Ari Sims rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2011 Oliver rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This and Bird by Bird are basically all you need to read on the subject. Inspirational but grounded.
Mar 06, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a book I want to buy and keep at my writing desk. Excellent, excellent advice.
Tim Knox
Mandatory reading in most businesses. I wish someone woud make a movie.
Merce Cardus
Apr 02, 2013 Merce Cardus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Helpful insights for writing warriors. Easy to read.
Jul 07, 2015 Dany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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