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Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life
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Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  1,001 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 15th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2004)
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Lewis Weinstein
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
7/4/17 ... I posted my comments to my author blog ... ... and marked the book to re-read again ... there is always something important to remember, or a new perspective to learn

6/23/17 ... reading again ... bringing back to mind the wonderful advice Elizabeth offers on every page.

Terrific book for any writer. Full of the techniques as well as the angst of writing. Ms. George is a meticulous writer; this book explains how she does it.

Jan 28, 2014 ...

I just refe
May 30, 2008 rated it liked it
I love reading Elizabeth George's novels. They are, as she calls them, literary mysteries. And they are masterfully plotted. But also contain a lot of scene-setting verbiage that I regularly skip. These passages often seem to take me away from, rather than closer to, the dramatic tension of the current characters and plot.

But the passages remain in all of her best-selling books. So perhaps I should not have been surprised to find that she takes a great deal of time to craft those portions of the
Jillian Haas
Jul 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Beginning writers
Recommended to Jillian by: Author Salon
I find hope and encouragement in Elizabeth George's assertion that writing can be taught. For me, this means that writing is something I can learn, and can continue to improve as long as I put work into it. Elizabeth George's philosophy states that a writer will be published if they possess three qualities: talent, passion and discipline. I'm reminded, therefore, to focus on those qualities and nourish them.

I've followed a process similar to George's: conduct research, profile characters, and pl
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-how-to
A Beginner’s How-To on Writing

George, Elizabeth. (2004) Write Away. New York: Harper Collins.

There are a lot of how-to books on writing out there. If you haven’t read any, this one is a reasonable place to start. It’s easy to read, encouraging in tone, covers most of the basics, and has plenty of examples. George is a well-known writer of mysteries and thrillers, and a teacher of writing. She describes her personal understanding of writing fundamentals and her own writing process. The result is
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
I wrote copious notes from this book for use in my own writing development. Halfway through, I rushed out and bought one of Elizabeth George's novels ('Careless in Red' published after this novel) because I wanted to read it in parallel, in order to experience her craft in action. For she definitely separates art from craft in writing, and this was an 'Aha!' moment for me. I was so fascinated by the aspects of craft illustrated through the excerpts she quotes from her work that I needed to follo ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was going to write a comprehensive review of this guide, but I decided to go for the short form version since Elizabeth George touches on a lot of topics like character, plotting, among others that are in other writing guides. If you read a lot of writing guides and are a veteran, there's not a lot here that comes across as new territory. I liked this guide and found it worth the read, but slightly cumbersome in some areas. It read a little longer than I thought it would, and part of that was ...more
Nick Duretta
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This an excellent volume of practical, solid advice for any prospective author. George is a superb writer herself (I love her Lynley/Havers mysteries) and a former English teacher who knows how to get a point across (I participated in a writing group with her years ago). She also includes many fine examples from her own books and those of others. This is definitely a book I'll be returning to as I make my way through my next novel--I made many, many notations and underscoring as I went through i ...more
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
(2.5 stars) Disappointing. Somehow the great ones who write about writing manage to speak mostly about other writers that they love (take Stephen King's On Writing, Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel, etc.). But when a writer who is much less known takes many an excerpt from her own novels to exemplify whatever she is discussing, I usually do not stick around too long.

True, King and Card do make occasional references to their own n
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I read mixed reviews of this but I'm so glad I read it, and more important own it. I haven't read any of Elizabeth George's novels because I don't care for mysteries but her information was so helpful and applicable to any type/genre of fiction writing. There were a few excerpts from books that I skimmed through because they were lengthy but I'm glad she included them so you could see what she was talking about. Not only does she talk about POV, grammar, research, character development, she walk ...more
Bob Mayer
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I taught with Elizabeth for 7 straight years at the Maui Writers Conference and we now both live on Whidbey Island, a few miles apart. She came and spoke to my last Writers Workshop here on the island and outlined her creative process and it was fascinating as she laid it out. She kept saying the #1 trait to be successful as a writer is the ability to be ruthless. What she meant was ruthless was oneself. To sit and work hard. The one common trait I see in every successful writer I know is the ab ...more
Kim Fay
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's been a while since I've read a writing book, and this one hit the spot. I'm trying to understand the fundamentals of mystery writing, and while Elizabeth George is undoubtedly a mystery writer, this book uses much broader strokes, exploring what make any good story work. She is clear that the processes she describes are what work for her, and that every writer will have his or her own unique process. At the same time, her lessons are reminders of the importance of certain elements, such as ...more
Jocelyn Bailey
Feb 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: an enemy
Two main exceptions I took with this book:

1) When writing about writing, do not include as examples numerous lengthy excerpts from your own fiction books. Especially when the excerpts are so long that, by the end of them, the reader has forgotten the purpose of reading them in the first place. I find this objectionable in its tackiness.

2) When writing to writers about writing, do not assume that your readers do not know the difference between first and third person. This is inane. Rather than in
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was a case of reading the right book at the right time for me. In Write Away, Elizabeth George describes her own process of creating a novel. Much of what she does is similar to what I've already discovered works for me. Reading her take on it has served to reinforce my own process and provided ideas for expanding on it. She uses some high quality passages from published novels (not just her own) to illustrate her points.

This book might not be of as much help to a pantser, at least not in
Apr 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
I'm going to call it quits on this one--I made it through the first 50 pages. This book is directed mainly at people who want to write thriller/detective/murder type stories. This is not something I think applies to what I like to write, so for now, I find this book useless.

The book contains long excerpts from the author's own novels as well as that of others. While I enjoyed to a degree the excerpts from To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved (it actually makes me want to reread Beloved), the excer
May 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
If I had tons of manuscript written, I would find this book more helpful. But since I don't it just makes me worry that writing is too hard and I'll never put in enough effort to do it for real.

The book has a lot of nuts and bolts description about elements of writing that make stories work. Many lengthy examples from novels are included. My favorite parts are probably the quotes from George's personal journals that begin each chapter. I like knowing her own struggles with story, and her involve
Cate Price
Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the second time I've read this, and it's one of those books that can teach you something new each time, depending where you are in your writing growth and career. Definitely a keeper.
Thank you, Elizabeth George.
Christine Sunderland
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Novelists of any genre
Very informative as I jump into writing my fifth novel... She is the most thorough instructor on plotting and character I have come across, insisting that it can all be learned and with hard work can be produced. We shall see.
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book explained in great detail exactly how Ms. George writes her books. It is a college class on creative writing in paperback form. Fantastic.

Bill Adams111
May 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing-how-to
There are a lot of how-to books on writing out there. If you haven’t read any, this one is a good place to start. It’s easy to read, encouraging in tone, covers most of the basics, and has plenty of examples. George is a well-known writer of mysteries and thrillers, and a teacher of writing.

On the down side, the information content is low and conversely, redundancy and irrelevance are high. That’s what makes the book easy to read, but a more experienced writer would be better off with a more ri
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't even intending to read this when I found it on the library shelf. I was waiting for a hold request to come in for a volume of George's Detective Lynley series when I saw this how to guide and brought it home. Having no intention of writing a novel, and finding most how-to books stultifying, I was simply going to thumb through it a bit, then return it. Instead, I read it cover-to-cover. In it, George generously describes the techniques she employs to write her fascinating detective ficti ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
This was much more helpful to me than the book I read immediately prior, How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them. George actually walks you through the painstaking process of how she crafts a novel, using a process I never could've dreamed of, involving imagining a small plot thread, creating in-depth character sheets, then writing scene summaries, and finally writing a freeform meta-narrative. All this before ever writing a sentence that will appear i ...more
Sarah Penner
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
If there's one word that comes to mind when describing this book, it's this: DENSE. Best to have a highlighter and blue pen ready. It's richly-packed with useful information, and in my opinion is best read in very small, daily doses (in fact, it took me 9 months to get through the thing.)

Humorous at times, and always encouraging, George has a way of making you feel that she's right there with you, patting you on the shoulder, saying "Yes, dear, yes, let me tell you a time when I felt that way, t
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Elizabeth George has created a written version of a novel-writing class through this book, with references to and examples from her own superb Inspector Thomas Lynley books and those of other writers. Although she gives "tips and tricks," her chief, accurate, and important message is that writing takes work and discipline if you are going to create something of value that is publishable. I like her distinctions between those who are writers and those who want to be published, famous, etc., witho ...more
Mandi Bean
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is wonderfully helpful for any writer looking for tips and tricks to get started, develop a process, or combat writer's block. There are many examples of technique and craft and process that can be adapted and implemented easily and readily. This book is invaluable to the beginning (unpublished) writer.
Felicity Disco
I'm picky about writing books, but I really enjoyed this one - readable and full of practical advice. My only quibble is that I would have liked her to have included more about mystery plotting specifically, since that's what she writes, but I get that she wanted to appeal to a wider audience here.
Wally Wood
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When Elizabeth George published Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life in 2004 she was a New York Times best-selling author of a thirteen mysteries. So the book is more than twelve years old, but the information and advice is as timely today as it was the day it came out of George's computer.

She points out that this is "one novelist's approach," and other novelists with other approaches are equally successful. She is relatively undogmatic; the only rule in writing a
Moira Fogarty
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-how-to
'Diary of a Devoted Plotter' could be the alternate title of this book, which is a detailed description of George's method for writing a lot of bestselling and now televised novels. Her left-brain-dominant approach is the complete opposite of my own impulses, yet I found her strict organization and procedure to be very comforting. I think this is an excellent companion piece to watching Brandon Sanderson's lectures on YouTube.

If you've read and enjoyed works like "Bird-by-Bird" by Anne Lamott o
Evelyn Puerto
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
When I picked up Write Away, I had never heard of the author, Elizabeth George. All I knew of her book is that several authors have said this is a “must read.” I’m inclined to agree with them.

Write Away is an excellent overview of the craft of writing, from the perspective of how one successful author creates her novels. She clearly is in the camp of those who plot more up front before starting to write, but that resonates with me. More planning up front does free your mind for the art, rather t
S.W. Gordon
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A "cakewalk" in modern usage refers to something that is "easy and effortless" but it traces its origins to a type of improvisational Jazz-dance performed by slaves on plantations in the Southern US during the late 1800's. I suspect the original performers made the dance "look" easy and effortless and perhaps this criteria was used to select the winner (i.e. who would "take the cake"). It's not a bad analogy for writing: a brilliant writer can make something complex and difficult seem easy and e ...more
Lynne Favreau
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
What a relief this book was. I really needed someone to spell out exactly how this writing thing works and here she does it “Start here, move on to here and pretty soon you’ll have this-” is how this book feels. That’s what I’ve been wanting and needing to understand—the progression, the advancing of a story.

I realize every writer will have their own way of working but for someone just starting out, who hasn’t developed any patterns or particular way of structuring the way they work, this is an
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Susan Elizabeth George is an American author of mystery novels set in Great Britain. Eleven of her novels, featuring her character Inspector Lynley, have been adapted for television by the BBC as The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.

She was born in Warren, Ohio, but moved to the S
More about Elizabeth George...
“tombstone—integral to the narrative, by the way, and not just plopped in there like the dread flashback,” 0 likes
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