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Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
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Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  3,491 ratings  ·  365 reviews
Stein on Writing provides immediately useful advice for all writers of fiction and nonfiction, whether they are newcomers or old hands, students or instructors, amateurs or professionals. As the always clear and direct Stein explains here, "This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions--how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 25th 2000 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1995)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  3,491 ratings  ·  365 reviews


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Chris Blocker
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sol Stein is pompous. If I judge correctly from his writing, he is a curmudgeon with a serious personality defect. His view is very narrow and it is the only right view. I wouldn't want to be his friend, his client, or even his trashman. I was not impressed with Stein.

That being said, Stein does know something (not everything) when it comes to writing. Though there were times during my read of Stein on Writing when I wanted to fling the book across the room, there were more instances where I
...more
Jane Stewart
Excellent advice and many examples for better writing.

Stein is an author, editor, and publisher. His advice is geared toward fiction, with some thoughts for nonfiction. I am a reader and reviewer of books, not a writer. I have strong likes and dislikes about books I’ve read. I’m reading some “how to write books” to see if I agree with the experts. I’m delighted to say that writers who follow Stein’s advice will very likely make me happy when reading their books. I am more liberal than Stein in
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Charlie
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have not found many books about the craft that I want to read. Most of what I have seen of the "how to write" genre is focused on overcoming personal and emotional insecurities and the variety of techniques writers use for staying with the "pen and page", or sticking to the work (wow, get obsessed, drink more coffee and abandon having a real social life, and boom, no more writer's block.) Stein goes much deeper and so I have yet to put him down. For one, he focuses more on the reader's ...more
Alex
Definitely one of my top 10 writing guides. Comprehensive and detailed with a plethora of examples. Two techniques, which I haven't seen described in this useful and epiphanic way in any other book, stand out:

Particularity
We hear about avoiding clichés and generalities, but here Stein puts forward a positive admonition.
"To characterize, particularity is used to show how an individual looks dresses, or speaks without resort to cliches or generalizations."
Triage revising
Instead of going through a
...more
Kym McNabney
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
STEIN ON WRITING by SOL STEIN is clearly to date the most impactful book on writing I’ve read. If you were to glance inside my copy you’d find dog-eared pages, highlights galore, asterisks, and notes written throughout.

STEIN ON WRITING is precise information, right to the point with useful examples. The language isn’t over the top. A must read for writers at any stage of their journey, but especially for those new to the craft and unpublished.

Here are a few notes I took pertaining to specific
...more
jv poore
Sep 10, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction
Although I am merely a writer of book reviews, I do have high hopes that my recapitulations will be instrumental both for readers (reluctant to ardent)as well as authors. I was thrilled to receive this gift.

Taking one of the first tips, I'm trying something different. Rather than read the book in its entirety, then review it; I'm going to attempt to record thoughts along the way.

1. I was surprised when, on page 10, I noticed what I believe to be a grammatical error. I hope I'm wrong. The last
...more
Dannii Elle
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am honestly never not going to buy anything that claims to improve my writing. But this one, more than any other, came with a renown and reputation that especially piqued my interest.

This book does exactly as the title suggests: acts as an aid to those wishing to improve their own penmanship. It comes with explanations of what to do and examples of how to do it. And the author, himself, is living proof of the acumen on his words.

It may seem odd that I could give the elusive five stars to a
...more
Laure
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Impossible to disagree with the advice on there. I did not warm up immediately to the writer's persona in the book though. I think sometimes the 'manipulator' in the writer needs to leave place to the 'believer'. All the advice is great nonetheless. Points taken.
Steve
Oct 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
The risk in recommending a book on writing is that too much weight will be placed on how well-written the review is. I doubt Stein would want these sentences to serve as testimony to his expert tutelage. Be that as it may, I will still raise my voice in praise like the gospel choir at the Triple Rock Church. (In one section he said metaphors could be effective, though I'm not sure references to James Brown and The Blues Brothers were what he had in mind.)

Anyway, the book is full of useful tips.
...more
Rebecca
Jun 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
If you can slog through the Stein ego and attitude, there are some useful things here. But it's hard not to question a self-titled "master editor" on his editorial skills when he sees no problem with quoting his own fiction as masterfully written and obvious models for all of us. And his students' fiction, too. At best, these examples are uninspiring; at worst, they are actively horrible. So my main question is--why would you do that, when you have thousands of years of perfectly marvelous ...more
Lewis Weinstein
Jul 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
I have read parts of this book. It is a terrific stimulant to improved writing. I will take it with me this summer as I edit my new novel.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to write a bestseller. Stein is a master of the bestseller. He doesn’t overlook sharing any small help to get you on your way toward the bestseller, any small strategy that will move you even a wee bit closer to the bestseller.

(I’m not personally interested in writing a bestseller. It’s the only reason I didn’t give this book five stars. Just me.)
Robin Spano
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-craft
Incredible book that helped me learn how to deepen characters and plot and enrich my writing.

Gripe: Stein refers to his own fiction too much for my taste - especially when he uses passages from his own work as examples of good writing. It felt a bit narcissistic, and also, how can he have the professional distance to truly know if he's nailed something? I'd have loved this book more if he'd used other works exclusively to illustrate his teaching points.

But it still gets five stars, because
...more
Robert Evert
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Stein on Writing and Stephen King's On Writing are probably the best books on the craft of writing that I've read. Using his own work and the work of others, Stein shows the biggest problems most writers have and proposes solutions.
Akemi G.
Nov 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
If we remove the cocky (and often distasteful) remarks and name-dropping, this book has nothing more than any reasonably-good creative writing books/courses has to offer, but then, it does cover the basics, so I guess it is inappropriate to give it less than 3 stars.
Bob Nichols
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Stein’s book is about how to write good fiction and, ostensibly, how to apply good fiction techniques to non-fiction. Really, though, Stein is about one type of writing only – good literary technique (tension and conflict; character definition and evoking emotion, etc.). He acknowledges popular-commercial fiction but does this with a not-so-subtle air of distain. Literary writing is for “permanence,” writing for the ages and that sort of thing. It is, Stein says, “a calling, not an occupation.” ...more
Gary Lawrence
Editorially Intensified Reading Experience
Seventy plus reviews already should be enough, especially when most have them have been written by aspiring writers, given a free kick at the head of an editor.

This one is written from the viewpoint of a reader. I will never read a book again without the experience being enhanced by the practical editorial knowledge passed on by Sol Stein in this book. My reading of Stein's how to manual is adding savour to my reading. Absorbing any book now, whether
...more
Barbara
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I rarely gush over writing books and this off the top of my head.....

I recommend many writing books to my students and writer friends, depending on what my friend/student needs (of course I always recommend my own, Pen on Fire). Stein on Writing is the best book on the craft of writing fiction, and nonfiction. Stein was a publisher He published MY LEFT FOOT (and talks about this in a short section on writers who make excuses for why they're not writing).

Stein knew James Baldwin (they met in
...more
Louise Silk
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Once again, Sol Stein, gives me the information I need to continue with my writing.

Here are some of the best tidbits:
Show rather than tell.
Create tension and suspense.
Dialogue deals with character and plot simultaneously.
Use all six senses: smell, taste, touch, hear, see and it.
Less is more.
The purpose of a title is to sound exciting and exude resonance(prolonged response).
If figures of speech are overdone, they backfire.
Miranda Elizeabeth
Excellent book for writers, readers and editors. Came away with loads of pointers that I'm putting into action during the revision process. Highly recommend; it has a new place in between my Dictionary of Symbols and Writer's Idea Book. Looking forward to reading Stein's "How to Grow a Novel" next.
Rebecca
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is what a writing class should be- but almost never is. Stein taught me more about writing than anything since...reading! For fiction writers of all genres I cannot recommend the book highly enough. (Nonfiction help is included as well, but as I'm not a nonfiction writer, I cannot comment on that.)
Jessica Donohoe
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
In a more perfect world, J.K. Rowling would have slowed down a second and read this wonderful 300pg tome on "Why 'said' is the only verb one should ever ever ever use to convey that any type of speech has occurred, and why good writing uses that one but sparingly."
J.P. Hansen
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books on writing I have read (and I've read thirty of them!). Easy to read and practical. Sol Stein helped me write non-fiction and fiction with confidence. If you're interested in writing, read this book first.
Χρήστος Κασκαβέλης
You better read it, before you write another word. If you write. If you don't write and only read then don't read it. It destroys the magic.
Brent
May 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: research
An excellent book that combines theory and practical advice. It's hard to argue with Sol Stein's success in the publishing industry, and I enjoyed reading what he had to share.
posthuman
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sol Stein is in a unique position to enlighten would-be writers on the craft. He is the rare combination of successful author who is also an accomplished book editor. He wrote several novels and nonfiction titles that grazed the bestseller lists, worked as head editor at Beacon Press and then served as Publisher and Editor-In-Chief at his own publishing house for 27 years.

There is a certain approach to writing fiction in which character comes before plot, where stories are developed by taking a
...more
Shannon
May 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
DNF - I realize the author is older and from a completely different generation... but he begins the book by asking women to "understand" when he uses "he" instead of "he or she," alternating between the two for balance, or just "they." Ah, the mansplaining away of sexism. And then he lists 20 examples of male authors having great openers and the moment we get to a woman... he says "this is not how to do it."

Also, I just didn't enjoy the examples he chose. They weren't authors I admire
...more
Talia
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you only have one self-help book for writing on your shelf, this needs to be it. Stein's practical applications for writing are engaging and easy to implement. He focuses on how to write in the 21st century with chapters that cover swift characterization, realistic dialogue, and flashbacks in both fiction and non-fiction. It's so easy to read that I felt like I was reading a novel.
Seth
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great tutorial on writing. The book isn't just for fiction authors. I wish it had more instruction on characterization and plot building. The brevity is also the strength of the book. Stein encourages and even inspires writers to take pride in their work. I found some of the editing exercises to be immediately helpful. The book surveys many areas where authors struggle the most. The advice is detailed enough to be useful yet clearly explained. For example, Stein suggests using adjectives and ...more
Kate Savage
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
This is an exasperating book, and a useful one. Great prompts and experiments and practical advice for both literary and commercial writers. But some of the examples of "good" writing are ridiculous. And in the meantime you have to deal with Stein's nonsense about gender (his love-scenes advice is intolerable, including his insider's tip that women can be equated with their hair, more or less.)

But that's not going to stop me from using his other advice. I'd recommend it to writers -- has the
...more
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Sol Stein was a best-selling novelist and the publisher of works by James Baldwin and Che Guevara. He also worked with David Frost, Jack Higgins, Elia Kazan, Dylan Thomas, and W.H. Auden.

Stein and Baldwin met as students at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where they worked on the literary magazine.

Stein served in the Army during World War II. In 1949 he received a master’s degree in
...more
“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” 10 likes
“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” 4 likes
More quotes…