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Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,469 ratings  ·  158 reviews
In Sometimes the Magic Works, New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks shares his secrets for creating unusual, memorable fiction. Spanning topics from the importance of daydreaming to the necessity of writing an outline, from the fine art of showing instead of merely telling to creating believable characters who make readers care what happens to them, Brooks draws u ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 3rd 2004 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 2003)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  1,469 ratings  ·  158 reviews

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James Joyce
A few chapters on his approach to writing. Basically, a minimalist version of his how-to guide, but not the real focus of this book. This is primarily a memoir of various highs and lows in his life.

Light and fluffy, but of interest to any fans of Terry Brooks, in particular, or author's memoirs, in general.
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman
Definitely made me feel a lot better about my writing process and the fact that my head is always in the clouds and I'm always, always thinking about writing. But on the whole, this is a white man in publishing, not a queer black woman so his journey is way different than it will be for me so a lot of it wasn't helpful. His advice, as most white male authors' advice usually is, does not take into account gender, race and sexuality barriers for other people.
Bob Mayer
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Rachel Marks
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sabine Reed
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A must read for all writers of any genre. Fascinating. Fantastic. Great Advice by a veteran author.
Dannica Zulestin
May 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Since I'm back to fantasy novelling for a while, I thought reading this might get me in the mood. Enjoyable reading, but didn't bring me any very new insights. The most interesting parts were about Brooks' life and career--I kind of want to try one of his novels now.
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Glen Stott
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, research
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 that g ...more
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
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book taught me many lessons and was fun to read besides. I found out about writing, yes. But I feel that I learned more about myself and my thoughts on writing than anything else. This book is not made to tell you how to write, or what to write. It is meant to help you discover if you are a writer. Terry Brooks does a wonderful job of playing tour guide to the writers life. I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks they might just be a writer.
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Terry Brooks offers an honest report of his writing life and things he has learned. He offers counsel to would-be and current writers, but I especially liked the distillation of what he has learned through his writing life. He reports the things he learned from failures and wrong turns. I especially liked the revelations he received from his Grandson Hunter. I will be referring to this book repeatedly.
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Marta Zoltowski
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Where to begin, is the question to be asking. I have never in my life have read such a beautiful book on helping other future writers in the world of fantasy. Thank you Terry Brooks for widening my knowledge in the writing world, your advice has changed my story for the better! I hope you continue to inspire future writers and your readers with your storytelling abilities! I will be recommending this book to any individual in the process of writing. Again thank you so much! ^_^
Jul 10, 2010 rated it did not like it
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.
Miguel Melo
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Equal parts biopic and creative writing teaching, this easy-to-read book takes us from the calling of a writer, through his first novel release to being a major author in your chosen domain. I must admit to not have read a Terry Brooks novel yet, but the friendliness and candour he displays here (concerning the importance of luck and bad decisions) have made me a fan.
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was so informational. I loved it. Every page had meaning and purpose. It is such a great tool for aspiring writers, or for people who want to learn more about Terry Brooks and his world. He talks about how he writes and what methods work for him. Thrown in the mix is also a bit of his life story. Truly a fascinating look into a writers mind.
Jul 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2009, writing
An interesting look into how Brooks writes. As someone who came into fantasy through Shannara rather than though Tolkien and never really connected to well with the Rings. It was nice to see how someone who influenced my reading as much as Brooks did when I was a teenager.
Azalea Dabill
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-fantasy
This book is chock full of fantasy writing experiences. Experiences as varied as a fantasy adventure related in a rollicking style. Terry's honesty encouraged me to write the Falcon Chronicle. It may encourage you too. Never give up!
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, loved-it
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.
David Korinetz
Oct 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Well worth the read for any aspiring Fantasy author.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Inspirational! A must read for fiction writers.
Jan Priddy
"If you don't think there is anything magic in writing, you probably won't write anything magical."

My husband is fond of quoting an Anthropology of Religion text read decades ago: "Religion, like magic, works whether the garden grows or dies." It's a question of faith. There is magic in writing at the moment when you write beyond what you knew you could, when the story flows out of the soul as if ready-made. The gift of the muse, some like to say. This book is mostly not about that.

What it off
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will start by stating that I am a huge fan of Terry Brooks. I discovered his books at my local library when I was making the move from the children’s library downstairs to the fabled grownups library. I had read Tolkien and I was looking for something that would give me that same feeling. I found the Sword of Shannara and I have never looked back.

For me this book was an insight to the mind of an writer I’ve been reading for more years than I want to admit to (according to my niece I am really
I haven't read Terry Brooks (but my husband is a fan); based on my reading habits, different apps keep giving me books about how to write and I liked the title so I listened. The book has good advice, and I appreciated that early on he acknowledges that one of the big factors in success as a published author is luck.

He's one of the few authors I've read who recommends an outline.

Listened to audio, but audio isn't one of the edition choices. Been listening to so many books read by the author tha
Eric Gilliland
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful and engaging book on creativity and the craft of writing. A masterful fantasy writer (one of the first authors I read as a kid), Terry Brooks shares stories from his life and the influences that shaped his work. I especially enjoyed his chapter on writing movie tie in novels for Hook and The Phantom Menace. The Hook experience was miserable, Star Wars proved to be a career highlight. Easy to finish in a few sittings, I'll have to go check out some of Mr. Brooks's work I've missed ov ...more
Lauren Brandenburg
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing
At one point I had convinced myself I was giving this 4 stars... I usually won’t even rate a book unless I loved it! I was so frustrated! How could this trying to make it author relate to the memoir of an author who came out of the gate on bestseller lists? I couldn’t... I can’t... but I can learn from him. And I did. Each chapter brought new insight into my own author journey, universal truths and mindsets that unraveled me, yet encouraged me to keep at it because I love the art of storytelling ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: 0743468791 Please add page count to this edition 5 11 Jun 02, 2017 07:15PM  
Goodreads Sci-Fi/...: Sometimes the Magic Works 1 10 Jan 18, 2012 08:57PM  

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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 his ...more

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