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Now Write!

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror: Speculative Genre Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers

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Featuring speculative fiction-writing exercises from Harlan Ellison (R), Piers Anthony, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, screenwriters of The Twilight Zone and Star The Next Generation , and many more.
The fifth volume in the acclaimed Now Write! writing-guide series offers a full toolbox of advice and exercises for speculative fiction writers hoping to craft an engaging alternate reality, flesh out an enthralling fantasy quest, or dream up a bloodcurdling plot twist,

- Harlan Ellison (R), on crafting the perfect story title

- Jack Ketchum, on how economy of language helps create a truly frightening tale

- Piers Anthony, on making fantastical characters feel genuine and relatable

Among the other writers incluided Steven Barnes, Peter Briggs, David Brin, Sara B. Cooper, Brian James Freeman, Joe R. Lansdale, Bruce McAllister, Vonda N. McIntyre, William F. Nolan, Michael Reaves, Melissa Scott, Michael Dillon Scott, Vanessa Vaughn and others.

This collection of storytelling secrets from top genre writers—including winners of Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, and Bram Stoker awards—is essential for any writer looking to take a leap beyond the ordinary.

384 pages, Paperback

First published February 20, 2014

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About the author

Laurie Lamson

15 books9 followers
I'm a writer, book editor and filmmaker who loves helping tell great stories. Edited Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror; co-edited Now Write! Screenwriting and Now Write! Mysteries with my Aunt Sherry Ellis.

Write short stories, feature screenplays and educational videos. Three of my own scripts are in development with producers.

I was honored to serve as teleconference host for Intl. Screenwriters' Association for 3 years and happy to put on Now Write! panels and creative writing workshops for Greater Los Angeles Writers' Society and others.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 59 reviews
Profile Image for John  Hill.
167 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2014
I used to have this big complex about buying books on writing. My father had always told me that good writers write and if I spend all my time reading about writing I'm never actually going to write anything. And he was right, to a degree.

A teacher friend, who also writes quite a bit, pointed out to me the other day, that just because I am a teacher, doesn't mean I stop reading books on teaching. I use those books to further my craft and to discover ways of doing things that I had never thought about before.

That statement changed the way I feel about writing books. I now see them as a way to further my craft.

That being said, I am not sure that "Now Write" was a very good example for me to read. Not that it was a horrible book, it wasn't, I just feel like the title was a bit misleading.

The majority of the essays and writing exercises in this book seemed geared more for screenwriters and horror fiction writers. SF and Fantasy had a very small showing with a few essays on world building and character creation.

The writing prompts I could have actually done without. For the most part they are the same old exercises and prompts anyone familiar with creative writing has seen. I would have rather had the author discuss the process behind their work in a conversational tone than have had them come up with an exercise that doesn't always make the most sense.

As I said, this was an OKAY book on writing, I just don't know that it was an OKAY book for MY writing.
Profile Image for James.
Author 12 books89 followers
December 1, 2015
A standout among the many books on writing I've picked up over the years - both down-to-earth and inspiring, with a lot of useful concrete information. I'd recommend this for any aspiring fiction writer, especially in the genres listed in the title.
September 19, 2021
The Nifties:
I started recognizing the stories that most captured my imagination, made me think the deepest, and stayed with me the longest often fell into the speculative genre category. (c)
Characterization is characterization, even if the character is a twelve-legged bug. (c)
Making stuff up and getting paid for it is the big time, no question. It’s also the most fun you can have with your pants on. (c)
Dystopian fiction is all the rage. ... These works are especially popular in the young adult market because tweens and teens don’t have an emotional stake in the world as it is. After all, this is the world that tells them what to do, what to think, and who to be. Why would they champion a society that “oppresses” them? No wonder they crave a world gone topsy-turvy in which one will be judged not by the color of one’s letterman jacket but by the quality of one’s crossbow skills. (c)

On the technique:
I frequently write a first draft addressing the plot and then layer in more of the emotional core of the story with the second and subsequent drafts. (c)
Another is to have little human details in your inhuman fantasy, such as your monstrous ogre having a sore toe, or your fire-breathing dragon suffering an itchy wing. That humanizes them, because you remember when that clumsy elephantine oaf stepped on your toe in the dance, and when you were jammed on the plane and got that intolerable itch right in the middle of your back where you couldn’t reach it, and folk stared as you contorted. You identify, and then you can accept the ways in which these characters differ from you and still root for them. (c)
My spot definition for the science fiction genre is the literature of the possible. You make one assumption that may be contrary to fact, then build a story around what could be if that non-fact were true. The reader’s willing suspension of disbelief leads you into a thrilling adventure. Thus it is true speculative fiction...
My definition for fantasy is the literature of the impossible. Virtually all of it is contrary to fact, and also, to common sense. You know it never was, is not now, and never will be, but if it is done well, you enjoy it anyway. It is perhaps the purest form of escapism, because you know it lacks all credibility. ...
They say you can have an ordinary character in an extraordinary situation, or an extraordinary character in an ordinary situation. Well, I like to have unbelievable characters in an unbelievable situation, and ludicrous puns abound, in violation of any serious rule of writing. (c)
You will see just how otherworldly you are inside your own head. (c)
Quoted quotes:
“The hardest theme in science fiction is that of the alien. The simplest solution of all is in fact quite profound—that the real difficulty lies not in understanding what is alien, but in understanding what is self.”
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”

Mind-bending (in all the right ways!) excercises:
Wake up. Do not think.
Grab your pad and pen or pencil—whichever glides best and quickest for you.
Do not think.
Put your timer on for 12 minutes, or look at your clock and give yourself 12 minutes.
Your task will be to write for 12 minutes without stopping, without editing, without lifting your pen from the paper. One continuous flow of thought.
Record your dream, if you remember it, and if you don’t, just start writing about what you think you may have dreamed. Be as visual as you can. Write about the cross-eyed lions chasing you, the icy mountain you jumped from, the giant bird fluttering in your face, the clouds that devoured you. Write about the animals you were riding through the park, the ones you brought home to live with you. Write about breathing as you fell through the sky or the car you raced through an undiscovered planet. What did it feel like? Where did it take you?
Write and don’t stop until your timer goes off or until you notice it’s been 12 minutes. Read what you’ve written.
Do this exercise anytime! Even after coffee. After dinner! Fill pads and more pads. Pretend you are someone else while you write—different sex, age, nationality. What did this person dream?
Again, never lift your pen. Do not edit. Write. Record fragments from dreams.
At the end of each week, read all the words you’ve filled your pads with. You will find a poem or story waiting for you. (c)
Profile Image for Lisa.
120 reviews1 follower
November 14, 2018
Jeg orket ikke å lese denne ferdig. Holdt på å bli gæren. Da jeg plukket den opp håpet jeg på å lære noe nytt innen håndverket, og jobbe med nyttige øvelser. En av øvelsene gikk ut på å skaffe en venn, og et annet tips jeg fikk var: Skriv lykkelige slutter for Tolkien synes det er kult.
Profile Image for Sarah.
348 reviews53 followers
September 4, 2019
Borrowed this from the library just to see if it could help my writing and ended up buying it because it has tons of helpful excercises in it, as well as advice from authors.
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 13 books39 followers
December 8, 2015
With advice from writers from all areas, screenwriting, novel writing, short stories writing, (even a comic writer), this book explored areas pertinent to the speculative genre and gave exercises to grow your work. While not every article will be everyone's cup of tea, the articles are well thought out and great advice with interesting and sometimes unique suggestions on things to do to work on your project. This is not a book that has to be read in order or needs every piece read to understand (there were a few I skipped), a jem just might be missed. The "romantic" articles I skipped (I don't write those and found it a little uncomfortable) and one contributing author was a little stuck up and insulting in his piece. But, this book contained a lot of great advice which I marked to look back on and try. This book would best be enjoyed by those who have written for a while and are looking for something to specifically go deeper into their genre.
Profile Image for Leah.
803 reviews41 followers
February 25, 2016
Brief essays introduce over 80 exercises by writers of sci-fi, fantasy and horror. 15 of the essays/exercises go above humdrum advice, to truly inspire. "Catching Up with the Future" by Douglas McGowan and "Story Endings: Where Monsters Lurk" by Lois Gresh are two of those.

The rest, meh.

My biggest nitpick is how many of the contributors were from TV/movies. I would've preferred that all contributors have a background in literature, teaching or writing. (It's already tough enough to find spec fic that reads like a book rather than a movie.) But if you write, say, novels and screenplays, you'll find many of these exercises useful.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Laura Trent.
7 reviews
June 1, 2016
I am a reader who dabbles in writing. What most impressed me about this book was the incredible variety of exercises and ideas. I think the editor may have had in mind to hit as many bases as possible, to cover a variety of needs. The editor succeeded. I loved the chapters by the very famous authors whose names are on the cover. I also got quite a lot from the chapters called "The Setting in Horror" by Lisa Morton and "Break the Compass" by Lance Mazmanian. This book certainly put me on another level of discovery in my own work and I recommend it.
Profile Image for T.R. Sutherland.
Author 41 books10 followers
June 8, 2014
This book is full of inspiration and great exercises. I will definitely check out the other books in this series.
Profile Image for Blair Hodgkinson.
662 reviews20 followers
October 12, 2014
Some very interesting insight and exercises are offered in this writing-help guide. I intend to follow through on quite a few of them.
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 4 books115 followers
August 16, 2016
These exercise books are most useful after you've completed a first draft and need to consider revision strategies. I picked up some good ideas here.
Profile Image for Steven Atwood.
Author 15 books38 followers
March 17, 2014
This book has some great tips

The tips contained within this book from the experts make it a must read for any aspiring author. I recommend this to anyone interested in writing.
Profile Image for Horace Derwent.
2,227 reviews170 followers
Want to read
July 3, 2022
Writing Horror

GLENN M. BENEST is an award-winning writer/producer
with seven produced film credits. He teaches
professional-level screenwriting workshops, which have
launched five films, including SCREAM and EVENT

After writing two horror films directed by Wes Craven
(the writer/director of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
and many others), I got to be an expert of sorts in the
field of horror. What I learned about this particular and
unique genre translates to fiction as well as film. Let me
share some of those lessons with you.
In the first place, we must realize that the real star in
the horror genre is not the hero but the source of the
horror itself. Whether it’s a haunted hotel in THE
SHINING or the great white shark in JAWS
, the crucial
thing that makes a horror project really work is that
which scares us.
Unlike other works of fiction or film, the protagonist in
this genre does not need to go through a character
arc. By a character arc, I mean someone who begins
at one point emotionally and grows through conflict to
be more vulnerable, more courageous, or more ethical.
In most genres, this is what a story is truly about.
It’s not about the plot; it’s about the character growth
of the protagonist. As a result, character is what the
author is most concerned with—the plot is simply there
to show step-by-step how much the character is
changing during the course of the story. So plot comes
from character, not character from plot. That’s normally
what makes truly great art.
In horror, whether we think of THE EXORCIST or
, what the protagonist
simply needs to be is strongly motivated to confront
what terrible evil is out there. Our central focus is not
necessarily on character or how the character will grow
during the course of the story.
Which doesn’t mean we don’t want strong characters;
it simply means something is even more important in
how we think as horror writers. Unlike other works of
fiction or film, the story is not about character growth,
but facing evil. Oftentimes, the hero is already
courageous when the story begins or simply has no
other choice but to face that which needs to be
The audience that pays their money to read your
horror novel or see your horror film is not there to
appreciate the nuances of character—they are there to
be scared silly. In some ways, this seems rather
obvious, but I find in helping many of the writers in my
screenwriting workshops with their horror projects, they
seem to overlook this basic tenet. They spend way too
much time on scenes that are dialogue-driven or
expository, and way too little time creating memorable,
scary moments.
It is a childish emotion, this love of being scared. That
is not to say adults don’t like to be scared as well.
Clearly we do. But as adults, we are not responding to
a horror novel or film with adult-like behavior. Rationally,
if something scares us, we avoid it. But now, we are
seeking it out. Why would we do this?
Because we are being transported back to a time
when nameless fears held us in their sway. It simply
means that as adults we have not outgrown our
juvenile fascination with what goes bump in the night.
Just like some of us still like the thrill of going on roller
coasters at amusement parks. We like to be scared
because it helps us face and overcome our most primal
fears from childhood—the monster that lives under the
bed or the creatures that haunt our nightmares.
We all come to your work of horror with certain
expectations that you must deliver or we will be
extremely disappointed. So think long and hard about
your villains and the world in which they exist. Make
sure you immediately thrust the reader or filmgoer into
that world of dangerous creatures, crazed killers, or
aliens who desire our demise.
Be very attentive to what makes your villains unique.
Why do we need to see another story about vampires
or zombies or rabid animals? What made the ALIEN
franchise so memorable was the originality of the
monster—a creature that has acid as blood and could
transform itself into whatever environment it was hunting
in. How can we possibly kill such a creature? This
monster is not of our world, it doesn’t think like us, it
has no compassion or conscience—and that makes it
that much more frightening.
And when you write the scary scenes, milk them for
all they’re worth. This is the equivalent of writing the
funny, touching scenes between lovers in a romantic
comedy or the gross-out humor in a teen comedy. It is
the very essence of what you’re doing as a horror
writer. It’s what the audience members have paid their
money for—so don’t disappoint them.
This is why we came to your party. Make sure you
give us what we came for. Use every trick in the book
when you create your scares. Study from the best just
as I did: whether it’s Stephen King or Wes Craven or
Edgar Allan Poe.
1.  Whatever villain you’ve picked to scare your
audience, brainstorm with yourself and others to make
the antagonist as unique as possible. Whether it’s the
largest anaconda in the Amazon with amazing abilities to
kill, or a great white shark that can literally devour
boats, make sure that your source of evil is something
that has never been seen quite like that before.
2.  Take a scene of horror you’ve written and find ways
to make it scarier. For example, you can do this by
cross-cutting scenes with another line of action to build
the suspense. Or you can have false scares, where the
audience thinks something terrifying is going to happen,
but it’s only the crazy next-door neighbor, dressed up in
a monster mask to get a cheap laugh. Then, just as
the characters feel some sense of relief—the real terror
3.  Find different ways to scare your audience. You can
do this by slowly building the horror in a scene when
the characters have to enter a haunted house and
creepier and creepier things occur—and then play this
off with scares that are completely unexpected—like a
hatchet coming out of nowhere and lopping off a
head—horror that takes the characters and the audience
completely by surprise. In other words, mix up the way
you deliver the scares.
4.  Find ways to bring humor into your horror project.
Humor always plays well in the horror genre because it
gives the audience a chance to laugh and dispel tension,
before you ratchet up the suspense and horror even
more. When you scare us, it makes every fiber in our
being taut with tension—so occasionally we need a
reprieve, and humor is how that reprieve is achieved.
Find funny moments or comedic characters or humorous
situations to achieve this goal. It will heighten your ability
to scare your audience even more.

The Setting in Horror

LISA MORTON is a screenwriter, Halloween expert, and
the author of dozens of short horror stories published in
books and magazines like Dark Delicacies, Cemetery
Dance, and Zombie Apocalypse! She won the Bram
Stoker Award for First Novel with The Castle of Los
Angeles and her first fiction collection, Monsters of L.A.,
was published by Bad Moon Books.
Think about your favorite horror stories in literature, and
I’m betting that a place will figure prominently somehow.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula? It made Transylvania an iconic
horror locale. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot? Heck, the
setting is so important that King chose it for the title.
How about all the haunted house novels, short stories
set in graveyards, or the books in which a middle-aged
narrator must return to battle evil in the small town
where he was born?
Horror is successful when it disturbs or frightens the
reader, when it creates both an overall atmosphere and
provides quick shocks, and choosing a setting is one of
the best ways to provide a mood underlying the whole
piece. It would be difficult, for example, to create a
prolonged, sinister feeling for a story set in a sunny
meadow . . . but move that same tale to an isolated,
moonlit street with only one empty house at the end,
and your eerie quotient has just been turned way up.
A great horror setting can serve to make your reader
instantly uncomfortable, before you’ve even mentioned a
monster or a murder. Look, for example, at David
Morrell’s award-winning Creepers, about a group of
urban explorers who decide to tackle the Paragon Hotel,
a once-great art deco structure now falling to ruin.
Morrell has taken the typical haunted house and
removed the ghosts; even without the supernatural
inhabitants, old buildings carry their own unnerving
charge. But Morrell isn’t content to just let his setting
sustain a low-key mood; throughout the novel, he also
uses the location to surprise, as when part of it
suddenly gives way or creates another danger for the
group. In this case, the setting is the monster.
Sometimes a horror location can carry an entire series
of stories. H. P. Lovecraft’s fictitious town Arkham,
Massachusetts, appeared in a number of his classic
works, including “The Colour Out of Space” and “The
Shadow Over Innsmouth.” Lovecraft not only created a
history for the town, but used it as the home for other
recurring elements from his mythos, including Miskatonic
University (and Lovecraft’s creation of Arkham was so
skilled that it was used by other authors after
Lovecraft’s death, and even provided the name for a
publishing company, Arkham House). More recently, Gary
Braunbeck’s Cedar Hill, a non-existent town in Ohio, has
been home to dozens of short stories and novels;
Braunbeck has so carefully mapped every detail of the
town’s history and layout that it’s hard to believe it
doesn’t exist. (But given how much terror has happened
in that burg, I think you’ll agree that it’s a good thing it
isn’t real!)
Sometimes a setting is designed to serve as a sort of
stand-in for a typical American location. Green Town,
Illinois, for example, doesn’t exist anywhere but in Ray
Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (and
several of his other works), but Bradbury plainly
intended the town to serve as a classic American small
town, instantly recognizable to anyone who has even
driven through one. Because Green Town is an
“everytown,” when it is invaded by horrifying elements
(Mr. Dark’s carnival in Something Wicked), we almost
feel as if our own hometown is in immediate danger.
Even a small setting can be used to generate
suspense and discomfort. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s
classic story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman
going mad in a single room, one where the walls are
covered in “a smouldering unclean yellow.” Richard
Matheson’s 1950 short story “Born of Man and Woman”
is set entirely in a claustrophobic basement, emphasizing
the gloomy captivity of its pathetic narrator, a deformed
child caged by its parents.
Real locations are found less often in horror, but can
be equally effective, if used correctly. For example: Anne
Rice’s use of New Orleans as the setting for parts of
Interview with the Vampire underscores the age, style,
and decadence of her eternal bloodsuckers. Sometimes
an existing place’s reputation can be put to good use as
well: Goethe, for instance, played on folklore beliefs
surrounding the Brocken (a mountain in Germany) when
he chose to set a wild witches’ revel there in Faust.
In my own novel The Castle of Los Angeles, I
created a fictitious building—the Castle—and set it in a
real place—downtown Los Angeles. The Castle is based
in part on the real-life Los Angeles artists’ community
known as the Brewery; but of course had I chosen to
set my story within the real Brewery, I would have not
only possibly run afoul of legal action (I’m sure the
Brewery’s owners would rather not perpetuate the notion
that murderous ghosts haunt its halls), I would have
risked raising the eyebrows of everyone who had ever
visited the Brewery and knew quite well that it was not
in fact haunted. Creating the Castle also allowed me to
control the geography of the story—it was important to
me that the building have a huge celebrity penthouse,
which the real Brewery doesn’t. Setting my Castle in
virtually the same area where the Brewery resides,
however, allowed me to suggest that the Castle—and its
spectral residents—certainly could be real.
Think about your own home and the neighborhood
where you live. Is there an area reputed to be
haunted? Or someplace where something dreadful
happened, perhaps a place that has since been
abandoned as a result? If you don’t know much about
the history of your town, you might try checking out the
local library or talking to friends who’ve delved into the
area’s folklore. Exploring online can be helpful too; most
towns now have Facebook groups or discussion boards
for people who are interested in the town’s provenance.
Once you’ve found or decided on an area, visit it in
person, then write a detailed description. Note as much
about it as you can—the streets, other buildings, even
plants, architectural details, or furnishings.
Now imagine characters in that area, how they’d
move around it, what they’d think of it. Would it initially
present a nice place, somewhere they’d like to stay? Or
is it a spooky place right from the start, but some other
part of the action compels them to stay there? Does it
present possibilities for shocks—branches that can
suddenly snap, pavement that might cave in, structures
that could collapse?
A word of caution: As much as description can add
to the terror, don’t overdo describing your setting to the
point where you begin to slow down your pace. After
visiting and researching your location you’ll probably
have plenty of notes, but you should pick just a few of
the most evocative bits to lay out your setting for the
reader. Several carefully chosen items—just a rotted step
and a broken window, for example—will usually work
better than filling up pages with every small observation
catalogued in detail.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
83 reviews1 follower
January 12, 2018
I'm not the biggest fan of this series, since entries are frustratingly brief. But some of these, such as entries on worldbuilding, were very useful. I never do the exercises, and perhaps that's part of the problem. It may be you should complete the exercises to get the most out of this book.
Profile Image for Katy.
560 reviews15 followers
December 1, 2017
This is an excellent collection of essays and exercises for genre writers at any skill level. It covers a wide variety of topics from characterization to setting to plot to technique. The essays/exercises cover a variety of genres (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.) and media (poetry, TV, film, novels, etc.) I think there’s a little something in here for everyone interested in writing genre fiction.

Overall, I found the exercises interesting, though I haven’t tried many yet. I also think the essays were generally well-written and helpful. There were only a few essays I didn’t care for, including the essays by Kate Bernheimer, Lisa Renee Jones, Lois Gresh (this felt like a series of plugs for her own work), William Nolan (wasn’t bad, just simplistic and a little weak), Ben Thompson (also simplistic/weak), Eric Stener Carlson (this was waaaaay too religious for my tastes), and Mario Acevedo (this felt frivolous and borderline misogynistic?). Essays I really enjoyed included the essays by: Vonda N. McIntyre, James Wanless, Ray Obstefeld, Sarah B. Cooper, Lisa Morton, E.E. King, Melissa Scott, Janice Hardy, and Diana Peterfreund.

The original reason I picked up this book was because of Harlan Ellison’s essay on titles, which was STELLAR. And so was Reggie Oliver’s essay on voice—it was a stealth awesome piece.

I’d absolutely recommend this book to any writer who works with sci-fi/horror/fantasy. Although I think there was much more written here about sci-fi and horror than fantasy, I think everyone can learn something from this book. I know my copy is dog-eared (please don’t hurt me) and full of stars, underlines, etc. In short, a superior collection of superior essays.
Profile Image for Tarl.
Author 27 books74 followers
February 11, 2015
I will admit, I bought both the physical and electronic versions of this book. Now, I didn't do any of the exercises (okay, that's a lie, I did three of them), but I do intend to go back through the book and do more than a few of them. I also have used examples from this book in my panels at conventions, as well as suggesting them to my writer friends when they have been stuck.

Lamson has put together a collection of very short (often 1-2 pages) blurbs by authors/writers about their craft, followed by exercises that the reader can do to stretch their creative muscles. In the case of this book, they have to deal with speculative genres, something I work in almost exclusively. At no point did I find any of the blurbs or exercises to be unhelpful, and more often than not, I found myself actually bookmarking them for later use.

This is a wonderful book and an even better tool for any writer. There is something in here for everyone, and I pretty much guarantee that at least some of the exercises will apply to the work you are currently doing. I really can't praise this book enough to be honest. It was well put together, the articles are well written, and the exercises are all helpful.

So if you are looking for a bit of inspiration or some exercises to help strengthen your craft, I highly recommend you pick up this book! It is going to be one I keep going back to again and again and again over the years.
Profile Image for Rick Cook, Author.
56 reviews6 followers
February 6, 2015
A great resource for all writers of the speculative genre! Many true life examples given by today's (and yesteryear's) great writers. Containing short but detailed lessons (typically 3-4 pages each) that get right to the point in specific areas for improvement, this book not only presents examples but, in some cases, counter-examples (things NOT to do). I learn best with quick short lessons, backed with one or more exercises. That's exactly the format this book delivers.

Much better and more direct than Stephen King's "On Writing", this book provides 87 individual lessons on specific subjects grouped into one of ten topics, ranging from "Scene Construction and Style" to "Memorable Heroes, Villains and Monsters" to "Story Development" and "Ideas and Inspirations" for getting through writer's block. The book is a virtual tool kit full of ideas and helpful advice on generating memorable plots and captivating heroes, crafting believable alien worlds, and developing riveting story line and unexpected plot twists. For me, it is a "must have" and holds a semi-permanent location on my writing desk. I've highlighted so many passages and sticky-noted so many pages, it looks like a tele-evangelist's family Bible.

Though I've read it cover-to-cover twice, I still refer to it. In fact, I liked it so much, I bought a second copy and gave it to a fellow writer and friend. Beware: you may do the same after reading/using it!
Profile Image for Eric.
654 reviews7 followers
July 22, 2016
The question I have after reading this book is, what audience is this meant for? For beginning writers who are looking to get more serious about it (me), this book has almost nothing on process. On the contrary, several of the established authors seem to be trolling beginners by stating that most people are not going to have the talent to write well. If you read a moderate amount, you know this is plainly not true. Shit writers are writing and publishing and selling every day.

Writing is a craft and like any other craft, it requires practice and exercise. Everyone has a publishable book in them - this is a fact (suck it David Brin).

Most of the advice given here is pre-writing. Stuff like how to generate ideas that may encourage you to start writing something. Here is some sage advice from the book (these items are listed as writing exercises):

1) Take a walk (this is actual exercise - I think the author got confused here).
2) Talk to children to get dialogue ideas.
3) Try some writing exercises that other people in this book listed, but don't call them exercises.

The screen writers have longer sections than the established prolific writers of the type of fiction that this book has in its title. There must be better books on writing out there. I will find them.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 7 books79 followers
February 21, 2015
I read this as I was preparing my Reading & Writing Science Fiction class, in hopes of finding some inspiration for in-class writing experiments. The book did fulfill that hope, but the contributions to this anthology are very uneven in terms of quality. Harlan Ellison's essay on titles, for instance, was brilliant--humorous and insightful. Jeremy Wagner's "The Art of Being Horrifically Prolific," on the other hand, seems like terrible advice for any writer, but especially for beginning writers or those juggling families and/or full-time jobs.

The exercises themselves sometimes seemed too similar to one another, and a few were so basic that I couldn't imagine them being helpful to most writers. There are some shining, strange examples, though, like Aimee Bender's "The Secret Room" and Nancy Kress' "Follow the Money," that are definitely worth looking into if you're a writer or teacher of speculative fiction.
August 5, 2016
As the cover states "Today's Best Writers and Teachers" which adds up to an absolutely wonderful book. I think authors at any publication level can find useful things here. I certainly did. Many of the contributors are well known and some are emerging but all seem fully in command of their craft. The level of advice and tips offered in each person's exercise range from very basic to extremely advanced and I for one appreciated this broad approach to the lessons. The cover art reminds me of my days in high school, dreaming and doodling on old fashioned notebook paper. This book is highly recommended. I will be investigating further books in this "Now Write" series.
Profile Image for Kelly Massey.
94 reviews1 follower
July 24, 2016
It's a good refresher for inspiration and technical advice that as a writer I've received from attending SFF conferences. It's a keeper for easy to turn to advice. The sections are short and specific, and the titles easily explain what short piece of advice that writer is offering, so you can sample what you need when you need it without reading the entire book cover to cover.
Profile Image for Bridget LaMonica.
112 reviews
November 7, 2016
A fantastic set of exercises to help kickstart your genre-based creativity. Some of the exercises are exactly what you expect, you know the classic write every day stuff. But a good number of them are unique and very valuable. I definitely bookmarked several to return to time and time again whenever I'm stuck
96 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2015
Great advice from authors in speculative fiction including Harlan Ellison, Jack Ketchum and Ramsey Campbell. The exercises are a little corny, but the advice is good. It's made up of essays from different authors on various topics.
Profile Image for Jenna.
3,471 reviews39 followers
June 18, 2014
Now I realize my status update made it sound like the book had too much to read and that isn't the case, rather that I have too much to read at the moment. I'd go back and reread this book anyday! Fun exercises.
68 reviews1 follower
November 5, 2014
Occasionally, I stalked through a short chapter and left wanting. However, the easily seen majority were inspiring. Several of those chapters churned over old stale ideas exposing fresh dirt I'm certain I can successfully seed and see a yield in the year to come.
Profile Image for Rachel Lynn.
Author 2 books4 followers
August 28, 2015
I loved this book. I read it straight through and did several exercises as I read through. Now I have a treasure chest of tricks to dive into when I need inspiration. The variety of contributors from screenwriters to teachers was perfect.
1,284 reviews6 followers
May 24, 2014
Impressive gathering of advice by many well-known writers. The exercises are many and varied.
23 reviews
March 28, 2014
This book is a must read for those who are looking to write fiction. The book has great exercises and insights to get past writer's block and into writing a great story!
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