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The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises (Kindle Edition)

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,272 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
Successfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles - against the page, against one's own self-doubt, against rebellious characters, etc. Featuring timeless, innovative, and concise writing strategies and focused exercises, this book is the ultimate battle plan and more - it's Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" for novelists. Tactics ...more
Kindle Edition
Published January 21st 2011 by Writers Digest Books (first published November 11th 2009)
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I tend to lump writing books into two categories, the inspirational anyone-can-write stuff and the technical understand-your-craft stuff. Instead, this is inspirational understand-your-craft stuff. It's kind of brilliant.

The first section, Reconnaissance, offers ways to mentally prepare for a writing career. Stay hungry, but never appear desperate. Develop improvement programs for aspects of your writing so that you're always learning, even after you're agented and published. Don't compare your
Ien Nivens
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
42 pages in, Bell confirms much of the thinking I've come around to over time about writing. Common sense expressed uncommonly well.
Emma Sea
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last 20% was much less useful as it was all about agents and traditional publishing, but I got a lot out of the first 80%.
Brandon Miller
Trying to structure this like Sun Tzu's classic was an interesting idea, but didn't really work from the start. I get where Mr. bell was trying to go with it, but in the end it just made the book seem a little disorganized and helter-skelter. That was frustrating. Also, the nook never quite seemed to park long enough on any given topic to really unpack it, so I couldn't recommend it as anything but a beginner's guide.
That being said,this book did create its fair share of ah-ha moments for me. Lo
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I view writing advice as taking your weapon to a sharpening stone, or cleaning your gun. It gives you the encouragement of knowing you're on the right track, and provides a fresh round of ammunition for the next stage of the writing journey.

My favorite part was how short each chapter was--most of them being 2 or 3 5x7 pages. Easy to get through, boiled down to the cleanest, most pithy advice Bell could muster. Whether you're a mother, a student, or simply a busy stay-at-home daughter, that makes
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I like this author's no-nonsense approach to writing. This is the third book that I've read of his and I enjoy them....mostly because it isn't sugar coated and mostly because it feels honest. He gives advice and offers up suggestions that seem reasonable, not mention practical. And he doesn't give anyone the false illusion that the craft of writing isn't "work".

Tricia Mingerink
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-books
A good little writing book. If you are looking for something in depth, this isn't it. But if you are looking for a quick summary of writing craft and encouragement, then this will fit the bill. Very quick and easy to read.
Writers never stop learning their craft. There's always a way to be better, to make a story tighter, a fresh way to grab a reader by the nuts and jerk them around until the very last punctuation mark. No matter how long I've been writing, no matter how many days I have that make me think I'm "good," there's always something else out there that can help me improve. Even if it's only a short sentence buried in 200 pages, that single sentence is gold, another weapon to add to my arsenal. Maybe it's ...more
Leslie Lindsay
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really, really loved this book! I have a "thing" with reading books devoted to the art of writing...I would much rather teach myself how to write by reading some really good fiction, or at least works I can relate to as a writer and reader. I figure that we only have so much time and when there's a free moment, it should be devoted to writing.

Well, as usual, this book set me straight. While this book is not exactly a how-to, it gives so much good advice, ideas, and more. I have several pages do
La Katie
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-things-reviews

Five Things About...The Art of War for Writers

1. This is not a hippy 'write from your heart' kind of book. If that's what you're looking for, pick up 'Bird by Bird' or 'The Tao of Writing.' It's about what it takes to be a professional writer.

2. Every now and then you read something that actually tells it like it is for writers. This does that extremely effectively. It isn't overloaded with cynicism, but it does mean to speak to those who intend to live off their words.

3. I
Roni Loren
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
I'm discovering that I just kind of love everything James Scott Bell has to say about writing. His advice is always to the point and eminently practical, and he gives great examples to boot. This is an easy, fast read but it's filled with great nuggets of wisdom. The last section is more focused on writers who are still aspiring to publication. But I found the first two parts, especially the section focused on craft to be chock full of tips I wanted to write on index cards and pin up around my o ...more
Sheryl Nantus
Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit it - I'm a writing book whore. Every visit to my B&N includes a dash to the reference section to see if there's something there that may help me become a better writer.

This is definitely one of those books. I've read and re-read it a number of times, if only to drill some of the good advice into my thick skull. If you're looking for a good book to lay out the art and the business of writing in short, edible chunks, this is it.

I'd love to get it in ebook form, but... too expensive!
This was a decent writing book, albeit a bit shallow and simplistic. The whole "Art of war" gimmick was interesting, but it didn't add much to the overall usefulness of the tips mentioned. Lots of fairly good points were listed; unfortunatelly, the author really didn't develop them properly to make an impact. Like many other writing books, this too reads like a recipe, a list of steps you should follow. It never mentions why you should do that and how they work, so don't expect to learn much fro ...more
T.E. George
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SIBELLA GIORELLO once closed a note of encouragement to me with a word about how writing was like warfare. Her last thought was, “Lock and Load brother!”

James Scott Bell picks up on this idea in this great little manual for every foot soldier whose weapon is a pen or keyboard. The title comes from the much studied, Sun Tzu, a Chinese general who recorded his observations of the art of warfare between 400 and 320 B.C.

This is a brutally honest and to-the-point primer on everything writing. James
Merce Cardus
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Helpful insights for writing warriors. Easy to read.
Kathy Davie
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
A non-fictional interpretation of Sun Tzu's The Art of War as applied to writing fiction.

Publishers are not interested in publishing a novel. They want to publish novelists, writers who can build readerships and make money for the company over the long term. You need to position yourself as someone who can deliver the goods.

Does this mean not writing what you love?

No. But write what you love with eyes wide open.

And that's just the's a buy. If you write, you want to beg, borrow, or ste
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any writer, new or experienced, young or old, published or not
This was such a helpful little book!

It is divided into three sections: the first focuses on the mental part of being a writer, the second on craft, and the third on the publishing industry and business. I found the third section especially helpful because, as a young writer, the industry is a big mystery to me. I will reference this book frequently when I begin to seek out publishing.

Each section is divided into short, numbered tips for that section's particular focus. The divisions made the b
C.J. Darlington
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-how-to
The thing I love most about The Art of War for Writers is that every writer, from newbie to seasoned professional, can glean from its pages. You can pick it up at different stops on your journey and learn something new. It inspires even as it spurs you on in your writing career. And that's really the focus of this book--how to develop a career in writing. Says Bell, "The writer must understand the essentials of success for a long-term writing career, and count the cost accordingly." What does th ...more
Angela Blount
This may be the single best resource on writing craft I've found to date.

I'd heard a great many glowing things about the skill, wisdom, and artistry of James Scott Bell; and this book in particular. I now realize it essentially contains all of the information it took me 2 years to accumulate through the writing guild I joined. Part field guide, part workbook, part exercise manual--this book ought to be one of the first craft books in the arsenal of every serious writer, regardless of genre.

I.A. Ashcroft
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a kick in the ass. If you want some feel-good writer exercises that'll tell you you're a special snowflake with your unique blend of pantsing and plotting, that's not this. Sometimes positive encouragement is nice, but sometimes you need someone to pick you up, chuck you into your writing chair, and hand you some reality about how you steel yourself to make it in the industry.

Best read in short bursts, probably not all at once. Just when you need a kick, I mean. I like it! I did wit
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is extremely useful for any aspiring writer for the sheer volume of tips that James Scott Bell provides here. While most of it consists of quotes from other writers regarding whatever topic is being discussed, it is still handy for two reasons: James does put a lot of his own thoughts and experiences in it, and the quotes are organized in ways you couldn't easily find on the internet, though you could probably find each quote individually. Based primarily (and loosely) off of Sun Tzu's ...more
Grace Wagner
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stuff-i-own
This book is a really interesting adaptation of Sun Tzu's famous work with a literary twist. It approaches writing a book like a battle. From mental preparation to tactics to what to do after you've "won," it covers the entire experience of writing a novel. It does tend to be overarching and big-picture oriented, but the author does a good job of using concrete examples from real books to illustrate his points. It's full of encouragement and big ideas. It get's you to stop and think, then start ...more
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction
Gifted to me by a friend. Great overview of the entire process -- from passion to publication -- for any new/young writers. The first half is about bigger picture stuff (philosophies and techniques), which I find more inspiring. The second half is more specific (exercises and industry procedures), which is valuable but not new to me. I did feel reinvigorated from reading it, and I do plan to buy a copy for certain people.

Note: It's definitely geared for fiction writers, and novelists specificall
Jul 31, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-books
The Kindle version of this book is so full of formatting errors it is unreadable. Interspersed between the text with missing letters, inconsistent letter spacing and staggered line lengths are images of the pages from the print book. Why? They are so small as to be unreadable on the Kindle screen. I am returning this book, and absolutely disgusted that Mr Bell would put this up without checking AT LEAST ONCE through the text.
J. Dorner
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-on-writing
I enjoyed the style of this book. There are several writing exercises I enjoyed trying out. I wouldn’t suggest it as a first how-to book on writing, but when you’ve read a few and put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) a few times, this is a good one to ignite the spark.
S.A. Larsen
A MUST HAVE for any writer!! Easy to read. Easy to understand. And concepts for writing easy to apply and practice.
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
This book contains the basis of writing predominantly fiction in short chapters chock full of advice and techniques in a down-to-earth, humorous way. This is very beginner friendly.
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This and Bird by Bird are basically all you need to read on the subject. Inspirational but grounded.
Robin Hatcher
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book for every writer's library.
K.D. Sarge
Mar 06, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a book to take slowly, absorbing each tidbit of awesome as you go. I expect to be reading it a while.
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Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes and speaks full time. He is the bestselling author of Try Dying, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, and was a fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine. He has written two books in the Writers' Digest serie ...more
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