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Techniques of the Selling Writer

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  979 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
Techniques of the Selling Writer provides solid instruction for people who want to write and sell fiction, not just to talk and study about it. It gives the background, insights, and specific procedures needed by all beginning writers. Here one can learn how to group words into copy that moves, movement into scenes, and scenes into stories; how to develop characters, how t ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published January 15th 1981 by University of Oklahoma Press (first published 1965)
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K.M. Weiland
Aug 09, 2012 K.M. Weiland rated it really liked it
I honestly can't believe I haven't stumbled upon this book before now. I can't even remember having heard about it, but perhaps I did and dismissed it as a marketing book based on its title. Suffice it to say, I'm glad I've read it now. Although dated in some of its presentation, this book is a gold mine of practical tips. Swain's advice on scenes and sequels and motivation-reaction units have long since entered the writing canon, and his thoughts on structure, character, and the writing life in ...more
Wilmar Luna
May 29, 2013 Wilmar Luna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All fiction writers
Recommended to Wilmar by: Randy Ingermanson
Techniques of the Selling Writer is quite possibly the most important book a budding author needs to read. Ignore the reviews that say the examples listed in the book are out of date or not well written, that misses the point entirely.

What this book does, and does well I might add. Is give you the basic foundation on what is important to include in your book and how to improve and refine your craft. It tells you the building blocks of writing an appropriate sentence or reaction and then reminds
Oct 05, 2013 Lexington rated it it was ok
I was very disappointed with this. It's a book that's full of commonsense tips stuffed with unnecessary explanation. I will agree that some of the information in the book is timeless, but it's nothing that can't be found online. What little useful information is available would be more appropriate in the form of a 100-tips blog post.

It's expensive for such an old book in e-book format ($16.17). Some of the verbiage was very strange and I had no idea what nor who many of the references in the boo
Stefan Emunds
May 16, 2016 Stefan Emunds rated it it was amazing
Reality can be impersonal, harsh, even nasty. But if we conquer a part or aspect of reality, it turns into our friend and ally. This book is tough on the author, but if he/she takes its principles to heart, it will put his/her writing on a new level. What is professionalism? Sticking to the right principles no matter what. Dwight knows what he's talking about. For more than twenty years he taught a professional writing program at the University of Oklahoma. This book reveals the principles that ...more
Jun 30, 2010 Taka rated it it was amazing

Excited and sad.

Excited that this is an amazing book that FULLY and COMPELLINGLY covers the fundamentals of the craft of writing, and sad that I should've read this four years ago when I started writing.

Most of the books on writing have nuggets of advice that can be applied to your writing. Some of them make sense, some don't. You pick and choose what you like and move on and apply what you learned.

But this book!

So much of it is GOLD. Granted, they are really story fundamentals - what are y
Aug 30, 2010 Kevin rated it it was amazing
THE very best how-to on the craft of writing fiction! The book was written in the 60's, as evidenced by some arcane phrases. But Swain is (was) a master at teaching the craft. He taught at the University of Oklahoma and the book is published by the University's press. I got my copy through Amazon for Three Bucks + shipping ($7 total) and I would gladly pay 10 TIMES THAT AMOUNT for the information presented!

Swain easily unpacks the process of building the novel and makes it understandable in laym
Aug 25, 2016 Boingboing rated it it was amazing
Shelves: keeper, writing
When I first picked up my pen (keyboard?) to take writing seriously, I ran across Randy Ingermanson's website on How To Write The Perfect Scene. His explanation was a distilled version of what Mr. Swain discusses in this most excellent book.

Until I'd come across this, I floundered with how to write something compelling. I felt as if I was wandering around feeling how to do things with no understanding of underlying structure. The results were frustrating, disappointing and disheartening.

Randy po
Mar 23, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was ok
This book contains glimmers of insight into writing compelling fiction. I especially liked Chapter Two's section on vivid writing, and will likely refer back to it for inspiration.

Thankfully much of the great advice in this book is available from other books and websites, because Techniques of the Selling Writer is full of racism and misogyny. This may have been the norm in 1965, but in 2015, we should not need to slog through such disgusting, demeaning statements for the useful information they
Patrick Sherriff
Apr 05, 2015 Patrick Sherriff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
Sure, Techniques of the Selling Writer is showing its age. His language is at times inadvertently sexist, the brief section on the difference between heroines and heroes seems laughable now, and the advice on typewriter ribbons is quaint, but please dear reader, don't miss the wood for the trees. Accept that the book was written in 1965 and see what still applies -- so much does. His discussions of what makes a character compelling, how to construct scenes and above all, the importance of feelin ...more
Timothy Frost
Oct 01, 2010 Timothy Frost rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Wannabe authors
I have a shelf full of 'how to write' books, but this is the one I keep returning to. I read it from start to finish before starting a novel and I read it again when I have finished, to see how I did.

You need to get past Swain's somewhat dated attitudes (complete with more than a little sexism). This book was written fifty years ago and it shows. Don't worry about it.

Every chapter is a gem. Swain breaks story-telling down into its constituent parts, then builds it up again, showing you how to st
Steven Ramirez
Aug 25, 2012 Steven Ramirez rated it it was amazing
Originally published over forty years ago, this is still an excellent reference. Writers who are learning the craft as well as those who want to sharpen their skills should read this book. It’s filled with practical examples of what makes solid fiction that sells. Let’s face it, most likely we are not writing the great American novel. But if you want to make a living as a writer, this book just might help get you there.
Katherine Owen
Nov 26, 2014 Katherine Owen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books on the actual craft of writing that I've read. This is an excellent resource for the aspiring writer. I highly recommend this book.
Mar 01, 2016 Jaro rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing, ebook
Review to come
Oct 12, 2016 Ietrio rated it it was ok
Shelves: junk
There's a lot of text for a succesion of if... than... else... repeat. Maybe the editor is paying by the word. Talking about creative writing!
May 21, 2015 Artemis rated it really liked it
I had considered giving 'Techniques of the Selling Writer' a low rating whilst reading, because for all its helpful and heartfelt writing techniques, planning and human insight, it does drag on for far too long. A few chapters in the middle are at least over 100 pages long, and the examples of good writing were not strong enough to sustain my attention; hence why it took me three weeks to finish the whole thing. For that it nearly put me off both writing and reading altogether. There is also the ...more
Jun 07, 2012 Amelia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
This is definitely going into my top 3 books about writing. I doubled back and re-read passages, not just because I was tired and distracted, but also because I could instantly see the implications for various stories I've written and/or am working on. I plan to go back and take notes on most of the book, because there's so much in here that I feel I, personally, need to absorb. It hit all my weak points as a writer, and the author's beliefs on why writers write, and how to do your own best work ...more
Alex G
Aug 20, 2016 Alex G rated it did not like it
The short answer: There are many better books, period. This is the only book that I've ever returned.

This book is more succinct and achieves better clarity:
GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction

Jim Butcher's Live Journal advice on writing also describes the scene-sequel technique (and tags, the 2-sentence story question, ) that "techniques of the selling writer" formulates, but it explains the concepts more effectively and succinctly:

Mar 27, 2016 Lanxal rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-library
Beautifully written, endlessly helpful, with an absolutely insane amount of information for what seems like a thin book. Techniques of the Selling Writer breaks down the elements of the novel - the acts, the characters, the scenes - into their base components, and yet does not end up formulaic or rigid. He sets out guidelines upon guidelines, makes lists within lists like some crazed student and his study notes, and yet ultimately all he does is give us the heart of what a story is. The title it ...more
May 03, 2008 Nicola rated it really liked it
I've heard this described as the best book to read about how to write. I would be inclined to agree. It's extremely informative. I think novice writers would get a lot out of it, and even people like me (who've read a LOT of books about writing) could get some useful tips.

The title is not a misnomer. If you want to write literary fiction, this isn't the book for you. Swain teaches you how to write pulp. However, even if your artistic aspirations are a bit higher, there's still good advice that c
Garrett Robinson
Dec 10, 2015 Garrett Robinson rated it really liked it
This book contains invaluable data for any writer (or indeed, a storyteller of any medium—screenwriters would benefit from it tremendously). The data, techniques and strategies enclosed will help you become a better writer.

However, paradoxically, I found the book to be incredibly hard to read. It seemed to violate its own advice, as it was kind of all over the place, and repeated the same things over and over again ad nauseum, far past the point of "repetition drills the point home."

Also, it has
Kerry Allen
Jul 26, 2016 Kerry Allen rated it really liked it
Shelves: research
My experience with "how to write" books is overwhelmingly that they are 250ish pages of self-congratulatory garbage containing, if you're lucky, one little applicable tip not already residing in your toolbox.

This one, while dated in presentation (going on 40 years since original publication and bristling with things No Longer Acceptable--I screech a little every time I see the example that begins "Thoughtfully, he wondered..."), contains chapter after chapter of sound writing technique.

Though th
Vicki Tyley
Oct 26, 2010 Vicki Tyley rated it it was amazing
An oldie but a goodie. After more than eight years of reading writing books and blogs, I’ve come across most – if not all – the techniques covered in this 1965 book. Mind you, it never hurts to be reminded. Techniques of the $elling Writer is actually one of those books that I wish I’d read when I was first starting out. A worthy addition to any writer’s bookshelf.
Jan 21, 2009 Shane rated it liked it
Shelves: writing, owned-by-me
Good book, but the author's style often got to me as I was reading it. I think it has a lot of value to the writer, especially the beginner, but even seasoned pros could glean something from this book.
Jo  (Mixed Book Bag)
Sep 28, 2015 Jo (Mixed Book Bag) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book serves as the writing bible for many published authors. If you have only one book on how to write a book and get it ready to submit for publication this is the one.
B.A. A. Mealer
Dec 18, 2016 B.A. A. Mealer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A helpful book

This book was worth taking the time to read. It had many helpful chapters. There was humor and truth to keep you reading and learning. There were many items to use. The big truth was in the last chapter. There are a lot of wannabe writers but very few who will actually write. There were multiple parts of the book I'll use.

I recommend this book for all new writers. For experienced writers, it can be a big help if you are having issues with blocks or how to write various aspects of
Jacqueline Ballard
Excellent Resource

The best resource out there for the novice writer or the experienced writer. Breaks down everything the writer needs in bullet points with explanations and examples that are spot-on and insightful. You won't be disappointed by investing in this book. Wish they had it in audible.
Mario Russo
Nov 22, 2016 Mario Russo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Good amount of wisdom in this book. It deserves at least 4 stars, but since I'm generous I'll go with 5.
Kate McMurry
Dec 09, 2016 Kate McMurry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
One of the very best how-to books for writing popular fiction.
Amanda Warner
Oct 11, 2016 Amanda Warner rated it really liked it
This book is DENSE. I toiled through it. That being said, there's still some good, solid writing advice in there.
Sep 10, 2016 Bob rated it it was amazing
65 All through character's POV - if he loves a girl, you don't get around to mentioning her harelip

71 The more tense the situation is for your focal character, the more words you give it

75 Use detail to make it absolutely clear to your reader precisely WHY your character does as he does...the pattern his thought and feelings follow; the strengths and weaknesses of his logic.

76 Deciding what to do may be easy, but doing it may prove a trifle harder.

77 Few aspects of writing are more vital: don't
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World, Writing, W...: Buddy Read? 36 21 Aug 21, 2016 04:38PM  
  • The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
  • GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction
  • Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore
  • Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
  • Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction
  • Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish
  • The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing: Everything You Need To Know About Creating & Selling Your Work (Writers Digest)
  • Description
  • Description & Setting
  • Plot
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
  • Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue
  • Screenwriting Tricks For Authors (and Screenwriters!)
  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • Writing Fiction for Dummies
Dwight Vreeland Swain's first published story was "Henry Horn's Super Solvent", which appeared in Fantastic Adventures in 1941. He contributed stories in the science fiction, mystery, Western, and action adventure genres to a variety of pulp magazines.

He joined the staff in the extremely successful Professional Writing Program at the University of Oklahoma training writers of commercial fiction a
More about Dwight V. Swain...

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“To be a writer, a creative person, you must retain your ability to react uniquely. Your feelings must remain your own. The day you mute yourself, or moderate yourself, or repress your proneness to get excited or ecstatic or angry or emotionally involved...that day, you die as a writer.” 4 likes
“A story is the record of how somebody deals with danger.” 3 likes
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