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Techniques of the Selling Writer

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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 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 to revise and polish, and finally, how to sell the product. No one can teach talent, but the practical skills of the professional writer's craft can certainly be taught. The correct and imaginative use of these kills can shorten any beginner's apprenticeship by years. This is the book for writers who want to turn rejection slips into cashable checks.


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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 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 to revise and polish, and finally, how to sell the product. No one can teach talent, but the practical skills of the professional writer's craft can certainly be taught. The correct and imaginative use of these kills can shorten any beginner's apprenticeship by years. This is the book for writers who want to turn rejection slips into cashable checks.

30 review for Techniques of the Selling Writer

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    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 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 general are invaluable. My highlighter was very busy!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wilmar Luna

    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 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 you that the most important thing to keep in your book, is emotion. Sure, sure, characters and plot are important. But if you don't care about the characters, you don't care about the plot, and how do you care about characters? You make them likeable, and to make them likeable requires some kind of emotion. You need to create within the reader a need to care about your character. Yes, some of the examples and references are completely out of date, this was written quite a while ago, but the logic is sound. So many plot, characterization, and sentence structure issues could have been avoided if I had read this book first. But what I find even more valuable in this tome, is the simple fact that the knowledge shared within its pages can be universally applied to any other creative endeavor. Script writing for movies, editing videos, writing essays. This is a must have book for any fiction writer, and a must read for any scribe planning on writing a story. Cannot recommend this book enough!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lexington

    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 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 book were pertaining to. I really don't think that reading this is going to help people sell more books unless they have no idea what they're doing nor how to begin writing a story. Also, the chapter on how to actually sell the book is one page and it's useless in the current publishing era. I did highlight a number of things, but many of them are things that I do already (because they are commonsense). My advice would be to purchase a modern book on how to write books that sell.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    After coming across Jim Butcher, K.M. Weiland, and many others describing the usefulness of Swain’s scene-sequel format and motivation response units, I decided to go the source. This book is dated. The author’s phrasing can be awkward, his examples are frequently sexist, and he refers to markets and tools that time has passed by. But there is also a lot of good information in there. And fairly frequently, Swain will present a concept or technique in his dated, awkward way, that somehow turns on t After coming across Jim Butcher, K.M. Weiland, and many others describing the usefulness of Swain’s scene-sequel format and motivation response units, I decided to go the source. This book is dated. The author’s phrasing can be awkward, his examples are frequently sexist, and he refers to markets and tools that time has passed by. But there is also a lot of good information in there. And fairly frequently, Swain will present a concept or technique in his dated, awkward way, that somehow turns on the lights in my brain, and I will realize for the first time what the blogs and websites were trying to teach me, but I just couldn’t grasp. Perhaps the awkwardness facilitates this. Perhaps by having to read more slowly and carefully you can glean more information. Or maybe I just needed this literary equivalent of a baseball bat to my cranium to jog the ideas free. I don’t know, but for whatever reason this book worked for me. P.S. if you are looking for a more genteel and updated approach, a lot of the same material is also covered in The Fantasy Fiction Formula, which I ended up reading in parallel with this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Sherriff

    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 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 feeling, both in the creation of fiction and evoking it in the reader, are liberating. It's packed with practical advice but steers clear of cookie-cutter systems and "rules" in favour of suggestions of what works and why. There are a handful of books on the craft that writers should read, and we all have our favourites. This one has sprung to the top of my list as the best of the lot.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Taka

    I'm-- 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 I'm-- 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 you if you don't know them? - and not how to make your book great. The author even states he covers the principles of COMMERCIAL fiction, which to many of us literature snobs is tantamount to selling your soul to the devil. But for the richness and depth of information contained in it, I would not mind Fausting it. I'm really motivated now to master these fundamentals and move on to something more - literary. If you can't tell a good story, don't bother writing for publication; people want to be entertained, not nod off. The book gives you everything you need to write good stories - how to write scenes, how to structure the beginning, middle, and end, how to portray characters, and how to actually sit down and write. Read it and master it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Emunds

    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 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 can turn your copy into a bestseller. Not more and not less. Well, it offers a few splendid psychological insights. A must read for any author. The only drawback: the book was written before the Internet era.

  8. 5 out of 5

    T.J. Frost

    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 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 structure and balance your work using motivation and response, scene and sequel and a dozen other easy-to-use techniques. The book is aimed unashamedly at the 'selling writer'. But who doesn't want to be one of those? A lot of 'literary fiction' authors would also benefit from reading Swain's advice.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Boingboing

    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 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 pointing the way to this book has been one of the few books that has almost single-handedly brought my writing up levels above what it was prior. It taught me how to write well-considered and executed scenes as well as started me on the path on how to read critically as well. My writing world opened up because of this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    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 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 layman's terms. It was a pleasure to read and I devoured it! Now I'm going back through and re-reading it for more gems I may have missed! If you're an author, buy this book! If you want to be an author, buy this book! If you've thought: I'd love to writer the Great American Novel, but I could never do that, buy this book! And you might surprise yourself!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    The short answer: There are many better books, period. This is the only book that I've ever returned. Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies is 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 and triage revising. (See my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) This bo The short answer: There are many better books, period. This is the only book that I've ever returned. Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies is 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 and triage revising. (See my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) 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: http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/ Note: You have to read the entries from the bottom of the page up. The Elements of Style is much better for mechanics and composition. You'll also find that whereas "techniques of the selling writer" predominantly uses sexist examples and exemplifies a privileged world view, these books provide a much more enlightened view to writing. Edit (15 October 2017): Added Stein on Writing.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    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 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 obscure. Examples of the offensive comments you'll have to put up with if you read this book: "There's a story about a Chinese who sought to divorce his wife for infidelity when she gave birth to a child with obviously Caucasian features. The judge granted the decree...on the grounds that two Wongs don't make a white." "A heroine's prime characteristic is desirability. Her main function in a story is to serve as part of the hero's reward for being indomitable." The sexism in particular appears in almost every story example Swain provides. Females are consistently portrayed as objects without agency that exist solely to be won or rescued. There are many, many books on writing out there that don't require putting up with this obsolete crap, so why should I?

  13. 5 out of 5

    James

    IT CAME FROM THE SLUSH PILE!!! Back in the pre-computer dark ages I was sentenced to cull the slush pile of a best forgotten magazine, Cthulu has nothing on that horror. Please read this book if you are writing popular fiction and stop the nightmares of innocent readers. Swain provides meticulous instructions on how to write basic pulp, even if you're a James Joyce wannabee, you should learn the basic forms before mutilating them. Literati will turn their nose up at this, the descriptions are ove IT CAME FROM THE SLUSH PILE!!! Back in the pre-computer dark ages I was sentenced to cull the slush pile of a best forgotten magazine, Cthulu has nothing on that horror. Please read this book if you are writing popular fiction and stop the nightmares of innocent readers. Swain provides meticulous instructions on how to write basic pulp, even if you're a James Joyce wannabee, you should learn the basic forms before mutilating them. Literati will turn their nose up at this, the descriptions are over 50 years old and a bit sexist in spots. The basics though are timeless and of the various writing books I've been exposed to, for fiction, this seems to be the best basic instruction book. I don't write fiction but I may buy it anyway, I would give it another star then.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Owen

    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. 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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    There's a fairly common idea about art in all media that learning technique risks moving toward a derivative product. But writing seems to get the worst of this, since it doesn't require any appearance specific technical skills in the way that painting or playing a violin might. I think it's a stupid idea in general, one that underestimates the extent to which all art is a product of cultural Evolution and imitation of precursors, and one that places an unjustified weight on the notion of an inh There's a fairly common idea about art in all media that learning technique risks moving toward a derivative product. But writing seems to get the worst of this, since it doesn't require any appearance specific technical skills in the way that painting or playing a violin might. I think it's a stupid idea in general, one that underestimates the extent to which all art is a product of cultural Evolution and imitation of precursors, and one that places an unjustified weight on the notion of an inherent, authentic artistic self which can be polluted by outside influence. that idea makes even less sense when the art you're trying to produce, as in my case, it's not something groundbreaking and unique, but simply a competent combination of things I like in other books and elements of my own worldview and aesthetic. This is the sort of writer that Swain’s book is addressed to--the word commercial in the title doesn't refer to some pejorative notion of commercial writing as highly marketable takes on trending sub-genres. It just means storytelling in a way that readers will find accessible and enjoyable. And despite having read quite a lot of that sort of fiction in my life, sitting down to reproduce it myself reveals a surprisingly thin understanding of how it's actually done. For the most part I found Techniques a refreshingly straightforward and to the point explanation of the most basic elements of fiction. It doesn't waste time with a lot of the annoying devices that such artistic how to books often indulge. Nor does it seem particularly limited to Swain’s experience, his markets, or his tastes. I found most of his explanations to give a credible and fairly universal logic justifying his suggestions. He's more focused on storytelling than prose, which is exactly what I need. The advice is condensed to the point that you can really blink and miss something useful. They're often basically bulleted lists with a few paragraphs of explanation and example. I like that but it made me want to take the book slowly lest it all go in our ear and out the other so to speak. And frankly I'm still not sure that my retention rate was all that high. On the other hand, once you get out of the more basic stuff (ie the fundamental construction of scenes and sequences) Swain’s advice is good but starts to get a bit thin or scattershot and is probably less useful then a lot of more contemporary books that focus on specific areas, eg character or plot. The last couple of chapters give a lot of very general advice about markets, motivation, etc, that I didn't find particularly useful.This is one aspect in which the book really shows its age. The other is in the examples and sensibilities Swain uses to illustrate his points. Some of it is frankly extremely problematic, though in general it's more the kind of oblivious casual sexism you might expect from a white male genre fiction writer in the 1970s. I imagine there are comparable books written more recently that cover the same basic skills, but I found it a worthwhile, if dense, read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    I haven't finished this yet, having had to take it back to the library before I could get through it. But I found a lot of nice practical tips in the part I did read, and will probably finish it at some point. I did find it a bit slow reading—perhaps that's because of the sheer density of useful information packed into Swain's concise sentences; or it may be because my mood/current circumstances weren't right for absorbing it quickly. One thing to note briefly: in contrast to the last (excellent) I haven't finished this yet, having had to take it back to the library before I could get through it. But I found a lot of nice practical tips in the part I did read, and will probably finish it at some point. I did find it a bit slow reading—perhaps that's because of the sheer density of useful information packed into Swain's concise sentences; or it may be because my mood/current circumstances weren't right for absorbing it quickly. One thing to note briefly: in contrast to the last (excellent) book on writing that I read, The Anatomy of Story by John Truby, which makes a case for theme and moral argument being the backbone of a good story, Swain puts a lot of emphasis on a writer's ability to manipulate readers' emotions. It's definitely helpful to understand how a reader reacts and know how to deliver the feeling of satisfaction they get from a good book; but I think this angle is best as a companion/addition to the somewhat deeper stuff dealt with in Truby's book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steven Ramirez

    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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Tyley

    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.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    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. 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan Holstein

    I only got a few pages in before giving up. This isn’t to say it’s a bad book, but it isn’t for me. For many years, I wrote in private. I’m only just now joining the world of writers, and I’m learning that writers have a certain style they use to talk to each other. And frankly, it kills me. They use too many ellipses, wind back and forth, and appeal too much to the sense of the artist. This book has that disease. I’m sure it has many great things about writing in it, but reading it felt like list I only got a few pages in before giving up. This isn’t to say it’s a bad book, but it isn’t for me. For many years, I wrote in private. I’m only just now joining the world of writers, and I’m learning that writers have a certain style they use to talk to each other. And frankly, it kills me. They use too many ellipses, wind back and forth, and appeal too much to the sense of the artist. This book has that disease. I’m sure it has many great things about writing in it, but reading it felt like listening to an MFA. And while people who read a book about writing might be MFAs, the readers of those people are probably not. I am just not into the “classical writers” thing. I don’t give a flying crap about the classical writers or literary fiction as a genre or other academic nonsense. So if you do, then this book is probably a lot more for you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris Babu

    This is the best book on writing I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them. As the title denotes, it's targeted at aspiring writers who wish to publish their books. Swain is credited for solving "scenes" in that he decoupled how/why they work with his groundbreaking technique called MRU's (motivation reaction units). You can learn about MRU's in a zillion places now, but that only scratches the surface of everything this book has to offer. Some of the information (and even style/language) is d This is the best book on writing I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them. As the title denotes, it's targeted at aspiring writers who wish to publish their books. Swain is credited for solving "scenes" in that he decoupled how/why they work with his groundbreaking technique called MRU's (motivation reaction units). You can learn about MRU's in a zillion places now, but that only scratches the surface of everything this book has to offer. Some of the information (and even style/language) is dated since this was written in the 1960's, but it's still very usable. A big focus is on writing copy that flows, keeping the reader turning the pages. So many books focus on novel structure, and storytelling, but few do a better job (or even focus at all) on composing the actual words and sentences. If you plan on writing novels, you must read this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Daws

    This book is not what I was expecting, which was more information and techniques on selling rather than foundational information on writing. The book is older (original copyright 1965), I didn't recognize most of the examples used within, and the writing style is more lecture than conversational, but none of that means I didn't find any value in it. It does include some timeless techniques and mindsets that are worth knowing. Just don't expect to breeze through this one. This book is not what I was expecting, which was more information and techniques on selling rather than foundational information on writing. The book is older (original copyright 1965), I didn't recognize most of the examples used within, and the writing style is more lecture than conversational, but none of that means I didn't find any value in it. It does include some timeless techniques and mindsets that are worth knowing. Just don't expect to breeze through this one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Suzannah

    This was EXCELLENT, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to write popular fiction.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Artemis

    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 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 casual sexism for something written in the 1960s, and the author continuously assumes that his readers - and most professional writers - will be male by default. But 'Techniques of the Selling Writer' isn't really dry, and the last third made up for the monotonous page-turning I endured in the middle. The author, Dwight V. Swain, truly understood what it means to be a writer and how you can live like one. In his book, Mr. Swain hammers in the importance of feeling and projecting your creative, lively passion into your work, something I agree with wholeheartedly. He emphasises the essentiality of conflict - Conflict! Conflict in Every. Single. Scene and Motivation. Also, his talks of main story goals, stimulus, character feeling-to-motivation, reaction-to-action, keeping heroes heroic, character choices, the point-of-no-return, scene and segment planning, and how to handle important scenes and make them flow together flawlessly are inspiring. As is his definition of a climax and how and why it must work for the hero and the reader. Swain even defines "to identify with" as a person who looks up to, is envious of and aspires to be someone else, rather than there being anything strictly relatable and compatible between the two. I can see some sense in that statement. So despite not enjoying the reading experience like with many other writing books I've read, 'Techniques' is worth a shot. Writing and selling your work are all about putting your whole being - heart, brain, time, energy - into creating something new, alive and worth your own time and attention. Whether this book does that itself is - as always - up to the reader. Final Score: 3.5/5

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    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 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 pretty much coincide with my own thoughts on the matter... which I guess makes me almost 50 years out of date! The book was published in 1965, which makes for a staggering amount of miscellany that's out of date, from the author's casual sexism to "a scientist says that a machine to play unbeatable chess would have to be 'slightly larger than the universe.'" Uh. Yeah. He had quaint little complaints about distraction in the pre-internet world. Those things aside, I think this book has the potential to do more for my writing than any other how-to-write book I've read, but it wouldn't be right for everyone.

  26. 4 out of 5

    N

    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 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 can be transferred to slightly more highbrow writing. The reason this book doesn't get 5 stars is that Swain is an ASS. There's no other way to put it. The book was written in the 1960s and I suppose that's some excuse, but Swain's sexism radiates off the pages. It's honestly pretty tough to get past. However, you don't have to like an author to get value out of what he has to say.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lanxal

    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 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 itself is ironic - there's a $ on the word "Selling", and yet his chapter on selling the manuscript is half a page long. Truly one of the most influential books on writing I've read or will ever hope to read; so full of tips and content that I'll surely reread it over and over in the years to come; so eloquently put that every single time, it will blow me away again.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Garrett Robinson

    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 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 no table of contents(!). This is a crippling lack for a book with as many sections, sub-sections, and sub-sub-sections as this book has. The data within is well worth learning—you just have to work very, very hard to get it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Allen

    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 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 this book is so extensively referenced almost everything in it can be found online for free, I buy a couple copies a year to give away because it's that valuable a reference.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chryse Wymer

    I felt like this book was so full of useful information that I'm going to start back at the beginning and read it again... and probably another time. It's a little hard going but definitely worth it. I felt like this book was so full of useful information that I'm going to start back at the beginning and read it again... and probably another time. It's a little hard going but definitely worth it.

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