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

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  1,566 ratings  ·  175 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
20th out of 426 books — 779 voters
On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Story by Robert McKeeBird by Bird by Anne LamottStein On Writing by Sol Stein
Books For Writers
5th out of 62 books — 38 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Chris Blocker
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
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 experie...more
Kym McNabney
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
Rebecca
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 liter...more
Steve
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
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
Seth
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 adv...more
Dorothyanne Brown
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
Robin Spano
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
Scott Moon
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
Louise Silk
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.
jv poore
Sep 10, 2014 jv poore is currently reading it
Shelves: non-fiction
Although I am merely a writer of book reviews, I do have high hopes that my recapitulations will be instrumental both for readers (reluctant to ardent)as well as authors. I was thrilled to receive this gift.

Taking one of the first tips, I'm trying something different. Rather than read the book in its entirety, then review it; I'm going to attempt to record thoughts along the way.

1. I was surprised when, on page 10, I noticed what I believe to be a grammatical error. I hope I'm wrong. The last se...more
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
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.)
Dave Mason
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
Jessica Donohoe
Oct 03, 2007 Jessica Donohoe rated it 5 of 5 stars
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."
Paul Baker
This is an excellent book for the beginning writer!

Stein, an accomplished editor and author, covers all of the most basic aspects of composition that you need to become a polished and published author. All young writers should read through this book once on the way to developing the essentials tools needed to become successful.

Alas, it is not for accomplished writers to refine their craft, although sometimes successful writers need a refresher course of basics and this book would serve that purp...more
J.P. Hansen
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.
Robert Evert
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.
Brent
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.
Al Macy
Plenty of excellent advice, presented well.

I might note one fault, and it's a fault I see in most books: I want more examples. He has lots, but a few times I wasn't clear on what he meant, and an example would have helped.

Sometimes he presents things with no proof. The worst example is in the chapter on choosing titles. He'll say "This book was extremely successful. It wouldn't have been successful if the author had gone with his original title." But of course, Stein doesn't know that. Marketin...more
Holly
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!
John Onoda
Editor Sol Stein packs decades of editing experience into this clearly written book of advice to authors of fiction and non-fiction. He takes a very practical approach and provides examples mostly from successful books many readers will have heard of.

If you’re interested in this book, you’ve probably read other books on the craft of writing. I know I have. Stein doesn’t break much new ground here, but it’s always good to have someone reminding you that writing is a craft and just adhering to th...more
Michael Stern
In my opinion, Stein on Writing is one of the most inclusive books about writing for both fiction and non-fiction currently available. Mr. Stein is a consummate professional who dedicates his book to explaining the process of writing in enough detail to force a writer to think. He explores the most important ingredient in writing-readers and what makes them want to turn a page. The first chapter for me was the best opener of such a work as I have ever read. This book belongs on every writers she...more
D.w.
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
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
Kourtney
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
James
Ambivalence is the perfect word to describe my feelings about this book. When concentrating on the fundamentals of construction, it was incisive. When illustrating how to formulate a story line, I found it vapid.

Stein is excellent when discussing sentence structure, the use of adjectives and adverbs (minimize) and the use of tools such as aphorisms, etc. When discussing plot and story structure, his recommendations are often clichéd and formulaic.

He also has the annoying habit of using his work...more
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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...
How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them The Magician Solutions For Writers Solutions For Novelists: Secrets Of A Master Editor Sol Stein's Reference Book for Writers

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