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Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,255 Ratings  ·  142 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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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
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.
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.
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
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
Glen Stott
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Apr 28, 2008 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.
David Korinetz
Oct 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Well worth the read for any aspiring Fantasy author.
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
Shane Trusz
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book. As a writer and a huge Brooks fan, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing how he became what he is today. It's an inspiration to learn that these greats weren't always that way. A ton of hard work, discipline and perhaps a little luck here and there and voila!
Jack Oughton
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think the key to this guy's success is that he was born with the gift of imagination (largely manifested in daydreaming). As a writer I didn't get much from this beyond 'be more imaginative'. Entertaining reading, though not hugely educational.
D.E. Chandler
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a treasure. Though the publishing world is changing swiftly and dramatically, there are so many lessons here that stand the test of time. Wonderful.
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Scott Lee
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: advice, biographical, 2015
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
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Charles F. Bond
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Martin St-laurent
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Shannon Haddock
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first heard of this book years ago and had, in fact, read the iBooks sample of it. But that bit hadn't made enough of an impression on me for me to even remember that it existed.

I was wandering around the library yesterday, looking for anything that jumped out and grabbed my attention, and found this book, recalled that I had liked the first bit, and, well, next thing I knew it was a few hours later and the library was about to close. So I checked it out and devoted the rest of the afternoon t
Jennifer Locke
Sep 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
This was a nice, quick read. It's along the lines of Stephen King's "On Writing" only much shorter and a lot lighter on the writing advice. I read it primarily for writing advice, which was good but nothing I've not heard before. I think his stance for outlining is unique among the big names of publishing. Every other big name author out there seems to take it as a point of pride that they have no plan when they sit down to write. Thank you for talking sense about this, Terry Brooks! Most of us ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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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 9 Jan 18, 2012 08:57PM  
  • Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy (Writing Series)
  • The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller!
  • The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: Alchemy with Words
  • The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth
  • Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells
  • Write Away : One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life
  • How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • World-Building
  • Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft
  • Writing Alone and with Others
  • Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Scene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What!)
  • Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing
  • Description
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.” 31 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.” 8 likes
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