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Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life

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4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,149 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
In 1977, the New York Times Trade Paperback Bestseller list—back then the exclusive province of self-help guides, cartoon collections, and any number of cat books—played host to its very first work of fiction: The Sword of Shannara, an epic quest through a mythical land, by first-time author Terry Brooks. Nineteen New York Times bestselling novels later, it would be easy e ...more
Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,332)
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Steve
Apr 30, 2016 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brooks confirms about writing what I have long suspected is true about most careers: some people are born with a passion that will
guide them into their vocation, and others aren't. It's like knowing wizards exist but being fully aware that you are a Muggle.
I am a Muggle. I so wanted to be a wizard, and I believed I would be if my Dumbledore would just show up. I've written before about this and blamed it on reading fantasies like those of Terry Brooks, and I still do. So it was very validating
...more
Bob Mayer
Dec 04, 2013 Bob Mayer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
James
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
Nov 02, 2014 Ashley Newell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ryan
Aug 12, 2011 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Glen Stott
Jul 22, 2013 Glen Stott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research, biography
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
Robynn
Jul 18, 2015 Robynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rachel Marks
Oct 02, 2015 Rachel Marks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was huge encouragement to my work early on in my path toward publication. An honest and forthwith look into the creative process. It was an encouragement and a reminder that I'm not alone in this wicked journey of crafting worlds. Highly recumbent. I still find myself returning to it.
Ellie
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
...more
Eric
Sep 04, 2013 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tony
Oct 11, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Mercutio
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.
Chris
Apr 28, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loved-it, i-own
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.
Terry
Jun 23, 2014 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Feb 02, 2012 Sabine Reed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for all writers of any genre. Fascinating. Fantastic. Great Advice by a veteran author.
Casey
Mar 11, 2016 Casey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a child, I loved everything Terry Brooks and went to great lengths to read whatever he wrote. When I sent him a letter requesting help on how to get better at writing fantasy, he wrote a personalized letter saying this was a great way to start. While I never realized my goal of becoming a fantastic fantasy writer, his kindness to write back to a child and give insight into a book that really had some great writing tips was very nice. I rated this as five stars because it is a great lesson on ...more
David Korinetz
Well worth the read for any aspiring Fantasy author.
Charles
Jan 22, 2015 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-books
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
...more
Emma
Mar 23, 2014 Emma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steven
Every so often I'm bitten by a small bug that confounds my mind and makes me think that I should give writing a try. I sit, I put words on the page, and that's all that comes of it. I cannot call my efforts writing as it has never lead me anywhere further than those three hundred to a thousand word attempts (of how many, I cannot recall).

Then I read these memoirs of authors I enjoy and find that maybe I don't have it in me... Or maybe the issue is lack of drive... Or maybe the issue is simply a
...more
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
Nov 23, 2013 Martin St-laurent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
...more
Charles F. Bond
Jul 15, 2013 Charles F. Bond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2012 Scott Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aubrey
Aug 09, 2012 Aubrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
John
Jul 15, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Clarice
Feb 26, 2016 Clarice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
A series of short essays meditating on his own experiences as a writer, how he became the writer he is, what inspires him, mistakes that he made, meditation about his process, what works for him and what doesn't, and a few solid chapters that cover solid groundwork of good writing. I found this to be a nice look into how a particular writer works, and that always strikes me as interesting and useful.
Wesley Williams
Apr 28, 2016 Wesley Williams rated it it was amazing
What I wanted to know about writing

I have read several of Terry Brooks stories, for him to layout the magic of writing was enlightening and informative. I would recommend this book to any and all who asked how I learned to write. The rules for writing are concise and really straight forward. Mr. Brooks, well done and thank you.
Kerry
Dec 02, 2015 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part memoir, part book about writing, Sometimes the Magic Works is fun insight into Terry Brooks' process and ideas. That said, this book doesn't offer anything surprising. That's okay if you're a fan of Brooks. The behind-the-scenes looks are enjoyable, and for writers, the reiteration of important points can never happen too often.
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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...

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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.” 24 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
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