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Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  2,459 Ratings  ·  245 Reviews
Stein on Writing provides immediately useful advice for all writers of fiction and nonfiction, whether they are newcomers or old hands, students or instructors, amateurs or professionals. As the always clear and direct Stein explains here, "This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions--how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 25th 2000 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1995)
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On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Best Books on Writing
15th out of 602 books — 1,085 voters
On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Stein On Writing by Sol SteinWriting the Breakout Novel by Donald MaassStory by Robert McKee
Books For Writers
3rd out of 86 books — 65 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Chris Blocker
Apr 29, 2011 Chris Blocker rated it it was amazing
Sol Stein is pompous. If I judge correctly from his writing, he is a curmudgeon with a serious personality defect. His view is very narrow and it is the only right view. I wouldn't want to be his friend, his client, or even his trashman. I was not impressed with Stein.

That being said, Stein does know something (not everything) when it comes to writing. Though there were times during my read of Stein on Writing when I wanted to fling the book across the room, there were more instances where I jot
...more
Jane Stewart
Excellent advice and many examples for better writing.

Stein is an author, editor, and publisher. His advice is geared toward fiction, with some thoughts for nonfiction. I am a reader and reviewer of books, not a writer. I have strong likes and dislikes about books I’ve read. I’m reading some “how to write books” to see if I agree with the experts. I’m delighted to say that writers who follow Stein’s advice will very likely make me happy when reading their books. I am more liberal than Stein in t
...more
Charlie
Jun 29, 2011 Charlie rated it really liked it
I have not found many books about the craft that I want to read. Most of what I have seen of the "how to write" genre is focused on overcoming personal and emotional insecurities and the variety of techniques writers use for staying with the "pen and page", or sticking to the work (wow, get obsessed, drink more coffee and abandon having a real social life, and boom, no more writer's block.) Stein goes much deeper and so I have yet to put him down. For one, he focuses more on the reader's ...more
Kym McNabney
Feb 18, 2012 Kym McNabney rated it it was amazing
STEIN ON WRITING by SOL STEIN is clearly to date the most impactful book on writing I’ve read. If you were to glance inside my copy you’d find dog-eared pages, highlights galore, asterisks, and notes written throughout.

STEIN ON WRITING is precise information, right to the point with useful examples. The language isn’t over the top. A must read for writers at any stage of their journey, but especially for those new to the craft and unpublished.

Here are a few notes I took pertaining to specific
...more
Steve
Jan 17, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it
The risk in recommending a book on writing is that too much weight will be placed on how well-written the review is. I doubt Stein would want these sentences to serve as testimony to his expert tutelage. Be that as it may, I will still raise my voice in praise like the gospel choir at the Triple Rock Church. (In one section he said metaphors could be effective, though I'm not sure references to James Brown and The Blues Brothers were what he had in mind.)

Anyway, the book is full of useful tips.
...more
Laure
Impossible to disagree with the advice on there. I did not warm up immediately to the writer's persona in the book though. I think sometimes the 'manipulator' in the writer needs to leave place to the 'believer'. All the advice is great nonetheless. Points taken.
Lewis Weinstein
Sep 10, 2015 Lewis Weinstein rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
I have read parts of this book. It is a terrific stimulant to improved writing. I will take it with me this summer as I edit my new novel.
Rebecca
Jun 02, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok
If you can slog through the Stein ego and attitude, there are some useful things here. But it's hard not to question a self-titled "master editor" on his editorial skills when he sees no problem with quoting his own fiction as masterfully written and obvious models for all of us. And his students' fiction, too. At best, these examples are uninspiring; at worst, they are actively horrible. So my main question is--why would you do that, when you have thousands of years of perfectly marvelous ...more
Robin Spano
Apr 03, 2012 Robin Spano rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-craft
Incredible book that helped me learn how to deepen characters and plot and enrich my writing.

Gripe: Stein refers to his own fiction too much for my taste - especially when he uses passages from his own work as examples of good writing. It felt a bit narcissistic, and also, how can he have the professional distance to truly know if he's nailed something? I'd have loved this book more if he'd used other works exclusively to illustrate his teaching points.

But it still gets five stars, because closi
...more
Akemi G
Nov 24, 2015 Akemi G rated it liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
If we remove the cocky (and often distasteful) remarks and name-dropping, this book has nothing more than any reasonably-good creative writing books/courses has to offer, but then, it does cover the basics, so I guess it is inappropriate to give it less than 3 stars.
Gary Lawrence
Editorially Intensified Reading Experience
Seventy plus reviews already should be enough, especially when most have them have been written by aspiring writers, given a free kick at the head of an editor.

This one is written from the viewpoint of a reader. I will never read a book again without the experience being enhanced by the practical editorial knowledge passed on by Sol Stein in this book. My reading of Stein's how to manual is adding savour to my reading. Absorbing any book now, whether f
...more
Barbara
Nov 01, 2014 Barbara rated it it was amazing
I rarely gush over writing books and this off the top of my head.....

I recommend many writing books to my students and writer friends, depending on what my friend/student needs (of course I always recommend my own, Pen on Fire). Stein on Writing is the best book on the craft of writing fiction, and nonfiction. Stein was a publisher He published MY LEFT FOOT (and talks about this in a short section on writers who make excuses for why they're not writing).

Stein knew James Baldwin (they met in hi
...more
Seth
Jul 12, 2011 Seth rated it really liked it
Great tutorial on writing. The book isn't just for fiction authors. I wish it had more instruction on characterization and plot building. The brevity is also the strength of the book. Stein encourages and even inspires writers to take pride in their work. I found some of the editing exercises to be immediately helpful. The book surveys many areas where authors struggle the most. The advice is detailed enough to be useful yet clearly explained. For example, Stein suggests using adjectives and ...more
Dorothyanne Brown
Oct 24, 2012 Dorothyanne Brown rated it liked it
Well.
I have a lot of books on how to write. Many of them sit on the shelf and beg me, beseechingly, to open their covers, give them some sense of purpose. Often when I listen to them, I am disappointed by their contents.
This is one such book. Sol Stein may be a "master editor" but my golly I get tired of his name dropping and self-aggrandizement! This book has less advice than self-praise and for this reason I am tossing it to the giveaway bin.
Much better to read Frey's "How to Write a damn good
...more
Louise Silk
Sep 20, 2011 Louise Silk rated it it was amazing
Once again, Sol Stein, gives me the information I need to continue with my writing.

Here are some of the best tidbits:
Show rather than tell.
Create tension and suspense.
Dialogue deals with character and plot simultaneously.
Use all six senses: smell, taste, touch, hear, see and it.
Less is more.
The purpose of a title is to sound exciting and exude resonance(prolonged response).
If figures of speech are overdone, they backfire.
Miranda (M.E.) Brumbaugh
Excellent book for writers, readers and editors. Came away with loads of pointers that I'm putting into action during the revision process. Highly recommend; it has a new place in between my Dictionary of Symbols and Writer's Idea Book. Looking forward to reading Stein's "How to Grow a Novel" next.
Rebecca
Mar 17, 2010 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
This is what a writing class should be- but almost never is. Stein taught me more about writing than anything since...reading! For fiction writers of all genres I cannot recommend the book highly enough. (Nonfiction help is included as well, but as I'm not a nonfiction writer, I cannot comment on that.)
Jessica Donohoe
Oct 03, 2007 Jessica Donohoe rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
In a more perfect world, J.K. Rowling would have slowed down a second and read this wonderful 300pg tome on "Why 'said' is the only verb one should ever ever ever use to convey that any type of speech has occurred, and why good writing uses that one but sparingly."
Robert Evert
Feb 28, 2013 Robert Evert rated it it was amazing
Stein on Writing and Stephen King's On Writing are probably the best books on the craft of writing that I've read. Using his own work and the work of others, Stein shows the biggest problems most writers have and proposes solutions.
J.P. Hansen
Feb 13, 2013 J.P. Hansen rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books on writing I have read (and I've read thirty of them!). Easy to read and practical. Sol Stein helped me write non-fiction and fiction with confidence. If you're interested in writing, read this book first.
Dominic Bellavance
Dec 12, 2015 Dominic Bellavance rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Les auteurs et les journalistes
Un des meilleurs livres du genre que j'ai lus. Va droit au but, sans fla-fla, et couvre un large éventail de sujets sur l'écriture. Les conseils visent autant les auteurs de fiction que ceux de non-fiction (y'a un terme en français pour ça?).
Brent
May 21, 2010 Brent rated it really liked it
Shelves: research
An excellent book that combines theory and practical advice. It's hard to argue with Sol Stein's success in the publishing industry, and I enjoyed reading what he had to share.
Holly
Feb 12, 2010 Holly rated it really liked it
Helpful. Concise. Direct. Excellent direction on how to write so that your work will get published.
Sandra
Mar 11, 2009 Sandra added it
Excellent! The best book on writing I have ever read, bar none. Mr. Stein is brilliant!
Derek
Hemingway said 'We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master,' I think Sol Stein is the closest thing we have to a 'master' in this regard. His experience alone is somthing to marvel at, but that's not what makes this book really work, it's the honesty, the insight and the resonance of every chapter. He says it as it is, with credible examples and concrete anecdotes. This isn't a book for the fiction writer alone, but for the nonfiction writer as well. A lot of what's ...more
Dave Mason
Jan 13, 2014 Dave Mason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
When I set out to write my first book, there was so much about writing I didn't know. I read book after book about writing, but Stein on Writing is my favorite by far. Every now and then I go back through my highlighted pages to remind myself of all the things I need to bear in mind while I write.

Stein brings decades of experience as both a writer and an editor, and he draws heavily on his experience throughout the book, sharing examples, tips, and anecdotes from his personal experience.

There a
...more
D.w.
May 25, 2013 D.w. rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Not perfect, and perhaps not as inspirational as Stephen King, but very insightful into the ways to make your work achieve a higher level of craftsmanship.

Stein writes and edits Literary Novels. He defines this as that better class of writing (he may not define it exactly but you pick up on it as you read the book). So not the work of Stephen King.

That part of writing that perhaps is a tenth of what is read in the fiction world. So if you write that and follow these guidelines, you will no doubt
...more
Tyra
Apr 27, 2013 Tyra rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book, as well as Stein’s How to Grow a Novel. In On Writing, he takes the struggling writer under his wing and attempts to show him/her a clearer path to good writing. “How to Show Instead of Tell,” “Choosing a Point of View,” “Flashbacks: How to Bring Background to the Foreground,” are just some of the helpful chapters, as well as the short but important “Tapping Your Originality.”

There were also some weaknesses, in my opinion. One was his lauding and applauding of Elia Ka
...more
Scott Moon
Feb 03, 2014 Scott Moon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing
I finished listening to the audio book version of Stein on Writing for the second time. (I also own the paperback version, which I loaned to one of my proof readers to good effect.)
The book addresses fiction and nonfiction. Stein discusses, at length, how to turn on the engine of the story and write immediate scenes. His discussion of particularity--the details specific to a character or other element of a story--has helped me tighten scenes and develop my writing voice. Advice on back story, fl
...more
Kourtney
Nov 19, 2013 Kourtney rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-tips
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein is a book every aspiring author should read and keep in their bookcase. I took my time working through this book because I wanted to absorb every bit of information and experience he passes along.

The book is akin to taking a semester long course with Sol Stein. You feel like he’s there imparting his wisdom every time you open the book. One of the most important things I took away from reading this book is that fiction evokes emotion. That can only be done by showin
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • Writing the Breakout Novel
  • Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
  • Telling Lies for Fun & Profit
  • The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
  • Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • Scene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What!)
  • Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore
  • Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
  • Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction
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Born in Chicago on October 13, 1926, Stein is the son of Louis Stein and Zelda Zam Stein. The family moved to New York in 1930. In 1941, while living in the Bronx, Stein wrote his first book, "Magic Maestro Please," followed shortly by "Patriotic Magic." Stein attended DeWitt Clinton High School, where he served on the Magpie literary magazine with Richard Avedon and James Baldwin.[1] He graduated ...more
More about Sol Stein...

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“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” 3 likes
“The function of suspense is to put the reader in danger of an overfull bladder.” 2 likes
More quotes…