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Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,026 ratings  ·  107 reviews
In Sometimes the Magic Works, New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks shares his secrets for creating unusual, memorable fiction. Spanning topics from the importance of daydreaming to the necessity of writing an outline, from the fine art of showing instead of merely telling to creating believable characters who make readers care what happens to them, Brooks draws u ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 3rd 2004 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,996)
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Bob Mayer
I taught with Terry at the Maui Writers Conference for seven straight years and we still keep in touch. This book is a great insight into his process as a writer and his career arc. I like it simply for the title, because he acknowledges that there is an element to successful fiction writing that is magical. But you have to work to get to the magic.
A nice, friendly, inviting read. The author conveys a warm message of encouragement and camaraderie to aspiring writers; a bestselling author, with this book he shows that he is also an effective tutor and mentor. For any aspiring writer, this is a good book to read and re-read.
Ashley Newell
Firstly, I have never read anything by Terry Brooks. Yes, I know, I am not worthy. Now that that's been cleared up, I need to say how empowering, validating, and almost spiritual reading this book has been for me. I self-identify as a writer, and though I have yet to be traditionally published, I felt so much relief hearing (or I guess reading) someone put into words things that I have felt about being "not all there". I do not come from a family of writers. I did not have a model for what it is ...more
I wonder at what point a writer is asked to write a book about writing? Obviously after they are successful by some standard, and that is probably after they've been doing their thing for awhile. The title of this grabbed me - I'm a big believer in magic, and I seem to be reading about writing just now.

I liked the quotes that framed each chapter - "I am incomplete without my work. I am so closely bound to it , so much identified by it, that without it I think I would crumble into dust and drift
Glen Stott
This is an autobiographical description of Brooks’s life as an author. He grew up in the same time period as I. His creativity was challenged and honed by the lifestyle he lived growing up in the 50s & 60s. He always wanted to be able to make a living through his writing. I always wanted to write, but in those early years, I never thought of writing as a career. Mixed in with his writing, he gives good advice about things a good novel should have. I have a mini library of books on writing th ...more
Recommended to me by a non-writer, and I bought a used copy off Amazon. Really enjoyed reading about a long-term writer's views on the journey, and get a little history on the publishing industry. No earth-shattering surprises on the advice front, but a very upbeat yet practical look at one man's love-affair with writing fiction. I closed the book feeling good about the world. Always appreciate when that happens.
I'm not a fantasy reader. I've never read Terry Brooks. But I love reading artists and writers describe their art and their process, which is what drew me to Brooks' book on writing, Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life.

And it's wonderful. I found myself copying quotes like crazy. I found myself getting excited about outlining, for heavens' sakes! I loved his stories from a writer's life and I found some of his ideas so compelling I had to stop reading and go write.

Or go, as Br
Everybody likes to gang up on Terry Brooks. I don't know all the reasons except the biggest, that "he's a Tolkien copycat." (He addresses this in the book.) I don't really have an opinion on that because I haven't read Brooks since I was twelve or so, and I read his stuff before Tolkien's. But I'll always have a foot in Brooks' camp because I spent years staring at his book covers on our shelf before I was finally old enough to read them, and SWORD and ELFSTONES were some of the first adult book ...more
I read Terry Brooks years ago. Even my grown daughter has a couple of volumes on her bookshelf in her room. But I had laid him to one side for far too long.
Reading this book - a sort of biographical-insight-instructional-thing - has renewed my joy of his work and I am determined to revisit the worlds he has created. It seems in my absence that there has been a lot of new stuff written.
But a greater thing this book achieved for me was partly in the reason I bought it - to inspire me to write. Alo
I was hoping this would be something like Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott) or Writing Down the Bones (Natalie Goldberg) but it wasn't. The writing was dry and I don't agree with some of the things he had to say about the writing process. Mostly, I was disappointed that I had to skim the entire book to find two or three useful insights that I hadn't heard before. Your mileage may vary.
Great book about writing from one of my favorite authors. It gave some cool insights into writing in general and writing in specific. A good read, especially if you like Brooks.
A quick volume that offers Brooks' perspective on his craft. The chapters are succinct and his prose readable. Fans and non-fans of his fiction will appreciate his anecdotes, but those looking for revelations will be disappointed. Brooks doesn't require that readers of this book be familiar with his fiction, sharing only a few illustrative points from those many books. He's a big fan of outlining, and he respects the contributions of editors to his process. Brooks is workman-like in his craft, a ...more
Sabine Reed
A must read for all writers of any genre. Fascinating. Fantastic. Great Advice by a veteran author.
David Korinetz
Well worth the read for any aspiring Fantasy author.
I enjoyed this book - This was not one of those that I would say that I loved, but it is informative, and presented quite well.

Terry Brooks gives writers a look inside his career, at some of the bad choices and good ones that he made along the way. This is an informative read, and he does give some help with the Craft of Writing, but overall, I would not read this a second time, which is what gives my reviews a 5 star rating.

Worth a read if you get the chance, but you can wait until you have th
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Caitlin Perry
Having read Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life many years ago, I already knew that I loved it, and much of the wisdom and stories still lingered with me when I read it again recently. In that sense it was like coming back to an old friend. But it was long enough ago that some of it still felt new. And in that time, I had also changed. I had written more, discovered more about who I was, not just as a writer but as a person. I had experienced a great number of things, good and ...more
Martin St-laurent
When you pick up a book and start reading it, you may have a good idea of what you expect. Most of the time, you were right about it; at other times, nothing prepared you for what you discovered while reading the book.

When I started reading that book, I was expecting a list of hard rules of what to do and what not to do when writing fantasy. It is not what this book is about. At least, not from my point of view. Sure, there are a few rules that the author share with us to help those of us who wo
Charles F. Bond
I got hold of this last Friday and have read it twice already, (this is Monday). Sorry Mark Lawrence, I had to put your 'King of Thorns' down for a few days. Anyway, I must say it's a great read for any aspiring author, and should anyone have friends or kin who are trying to make it in the world of publishing, this is a must read. So why not get them a copy. But before giving it to the desired recipient, take a read of the opening chapter. It may help you understand. Oh by the way, I don't know ...more
Scott Lee
Having a read a few of these writing manuals/writer's memoirs now in the course of my time in graduate school (I'm about to finish a Masters in English with an emphasis in creative writing), and especially as I've been working on my own creative project, I really enjoyed Brooks'. He has a skill I truly appreciate, one that I wish more writers of literary fiction would adopt--vanishing behind the story and focusing primarily on not getting in the way rather than showing off. As Scott Card will te ...more
Brooks, you spoke right to me. I have now read three really fantastic books on writing. Each one offers different things, different lessons. With each we must take what works for us. No one method works for all, no one lesson is a lesson for everyone and no one rule should be followed by everyone. We are all different.

As far as personality and approach to writing I feel that I relate the most to Brooks, and yet I haven't read a Brooks book (which I plan to reconcile!).

Sometimes I read what anoth
As a career programmer, and on whimsical occasion an aspiring author, I’ve always thought that programming is more like writing. Aside from the obvious parallels in entering text and following syntax and grammar rules, good code is expressive, succinct and has style. And I have speculated that the organizational and structural challenges in developing large, complex programs are analogous to those posed by novel writing.

Now I feel validated after reading Terry Brook’s account of his creative pro
Jennifer Locke
I really enjoyed reading this book by Terry Brooks. He is one of my favorite authors and it was almost like having him sit here with me and give me answers to questions I hadn't thought to ask. The writing is done in a conversational tone instead of a teaching tone. He gives good advice about using outlines to help spread out your workload, get as much done on the front end to save yourself more work in the end. It was also interesting to find out that the success of Shannara might not of happen ...more
I am not a big fan of his fantasy novels, but this book about writing had good information. I found it more inspirational than practical advice. But there are times we all need that motivation. Terry certainly knows his craft, he displayed it clearly and pointedly in this book. For anyone interested in writing, don't expect any great revaluations or the "secret sauce" of writing from this book. Nevertheless, I found it interesting and worth reading.
'chris d
I read this book once a year or so. This is a perfect book for writers who need a little encouragement. His tone is warm and accessible, like a beloved father or uncle. In my opinion, it's a book worthy of purchase to be read many times.
This was a nice, quick read. It's along the lines of Stephen King's "On Writing" only much shorter and a lot lighter on the writing advice. I read it primarily for writing advice, which was good but nothing I've not heard before. I think his stance for outlining is unique among the big names of publishing. Every other big name author out there seems to take it as a point of pride that they have no plan when they sit down to write. Thank you for talking sense about this, Terry Brooks! Most of us ...more
Matthew Clark
Thoughts from a writer about the struggles of writing. A look into the life and lessons learned of a great writer. I really enjoyed the perspective and encouragement offered within.
Jake Murray
This book was fantastic! It was not only helpful, it it truly felt like he was right there talking to me. By far one of the most enjoyable non-fiction books i have read.
Quite good. Cost me rm59.90 to buy this book since it was published in the UK by a UK publisher.
To be fair, I approached this book with the wrong mindset. I was hoping to get new tips and insights about writing to share with my composition classes and maybe some neat new activities to help my students approach writing in new ways. Instead, I got advice about how to write stories. That's not a bad thing, but in my experience, most students don't yet have the skill set necessary to make connections between the two genres. Still, I might try giving them a chapter and telling them to substitut ...more
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Terry Brooks was born in Illinois in 1944, where he spent a great deal of his childhood and early adulthood dreaming up stories in and around Sinnissippi Park, the very same park that would eventually become the setting for his bestselling Word & Void trilogy. He went to college and received his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, where he majored in English Literature, and he received ...more
More about Terry Brooks...
The Elfstones Of Shannara  (The Original Shannara Trilogy, #2) The Sword of Shannara (The Original Shannara Trilogy #1) The Talismans Of Shannara (Heritage of Shannara #4) The Wishsong of Shannara (The Original Shannara Trilogy #3) Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold (Magic Kingdom of Landover, #1)

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“If you do not hear music in your words, you have put too much thought into your writing and not enough heart.” 21 likes
“I am incomplete without my work. I am so closely bound to it, so much identified by it, that without it I think I would crumble into dust and drift away.” 7 likes
More quotes…