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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into a novelist's life and techniques, 11 Jun. 2004
By 
L. Miles (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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Rather than trundling out all the usual vague suggestions for plotting and characterisation, Elizabeth George provides a fascinatingly detailed insight into how she writes her own novels, including how she turns ideas into plots and then into detailed scenes. It's so interesting to see her unedited brainstorms about scenes which are now in her published novels. She illustrates all her advice with examples from her own and other author's work, so that even familiar advice, such as 'showing character through action/environment' (which I have found to be fairly dry in other books) starts to make real sense. Her comments about left-brained thinking, her need for intricate planning and her self-doubt, really struck a chord with me, and gave me confidence to get back to my stalled novel. I've read quite a few writing books recently (must start actually doing some writing soon:-) ) and this really hit the mark. Would also recommend Stephen King's 'On Writing', as it's in a very similar vein to this book, with great examples from his own work.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for the basics, 8 Mar. 2004
By A Customer
Each of the chapters (on character setting, plot, etc) begins with a quote from George's own writing diary, and throughout the book her lessons are illustrated with examples from her own work as well as that of famous others.
This is a good general book on the techniques of writing, perhaps particularly helpful for crime writers. It covers the basics of technique, like dialogue and character, but also has helpful suggestions on structuring scenes, and on problem-solving, with an emphasis is on the process of writing. It is, as it says, "one novelist's approach" and therefore just as interesting for fans of George's work as wannabe writers.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book and learn from it, 24 Mar. 2008
By 
R. Nicholson-morton "Nik Morton" (Alicante, Spain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Write Away: One Novelist's Approach To Fiction and the Writing Life (Paperback)
Born in 1949, Elizabeth George wrote since the age of seven yet tended to avoid writing seriously as an adult until much later, finally getting her third attempt at a novel published in 1988. From that point on, she has written a novel almost every year, to great acclaim. She has won several writing awards and taught writing techniques. Much of her writing experience and teaching has been distilled into this excellent book.

Writers must read. It's surprising how many would-be writers hardly ever read books. They can read and speak English, so they can write, can't they? Well, probably not... They should read books on the subjects that interest them, the types of books they want to write, as well as books on how to write. In my time I've received so many manuscripts that lack even the basic understanding of page layout, sentence construction, paragraph formatting and punctuation - and yet all these basics are plain to see in any printed novel if the fledgling writers bothered to look.

Like all art forms, writing has to be practised and learned. Good writing is a combination of the craft and the art. You can't teach someone to use the right vocabulary, to paint word-pictures in the reader's mind - that has to come from within. But you can teach the technique of writing - and this is what George does with the aid of many examples from her own and other writers, such as PD James, Stephen King, EM Forster, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Martin Cruz Smith and Dennis Lehane.

There isn't a right way to write a novel. There are thousands of authors and probably all of them have different approaches. But what the majority do have is bum glue - discipline. If you don't sit down and write, then you don't get the work done.

That's the other thing to recognise - it's work - hard work. Just because the writers enjoy what they do, it doesn't mean that it comes easy to them. They have to apply themselves. And this shines through with Elizabeth George. She's meticulous in her pre-writing planning.

Yes, you need to know what you're going to write before you start, who you're going to write about, what it will concern and probably how it will end. That requires planning and research. Not every writer plans in detail or even at all, but George advocates that the whole process of writing is far easier if you have a plan and she starts off by getting the idea then expanding on it to see if it has legs, then concocting the primary event that will propel the story from its beginning - in essence, the plot.

Then you need to people the world your story depicts - list the characters both generically and also specifically. By doing this, you'll reveal relationships and sub-plots you hadn't thought of, which is often a great feeling. You must always bear in mind that character is story and dialogue is character, too.

Then comes the research. The great danger with research is that it becomes so interesting - and time-consuming - that you never get round to the writing phase!

Up to now she still hasn't begun the book. It's still going on in her head in the subconscious. Now she creates the characters in depth then the settings - which include landscape - the physical places and the inner landscape of the characters. This is followed by a detailed step outline which will probably contain phrases and dialogue to be used in the actual writing, but it's all steam-of-consciousness writing at this stage. A plot outline - where the logic of the storyline is checked - is the last preparation. All this has involved the craft of writing.

Now comes the decision where to start the novel - at the beginning, before the beginning or after the beginning, where the beginning is the primary event, the main plot. Once you've made that decision, it's time to start writing the book!

The first rough draft of the novel is, to her, the easy bit - because she's done all the background and familiarisation. The story flows and she can concentrate on the art side of writing. Usually, she writes three drafts - the third being the finished novel, ready for the publisher.

Of considerable use are her examples and guides in the final section. Here she reveals the Seven-step Story Line, breaking down the structure of a novel into seven major elements. Then she discusses The Writer's Journey by Chris Vogler (a book I'd recommend for all budding writers or scriptwriters). This model actually divides a story into twelve parts that follow a pattern long-established in Western mythology.

If you aspire to being a writer and you haven't read any `How to' books on the subject, this is a good place to start; if you have read similar books, this is still worthy of your attention. Aspiring or accomplished, as a writer you'll take away something from this book. So, if you fancy yourself as a writer, read. In particular, read this book and learn from it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, 6 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Write Away: One Novelist's Approach To Fiction and the Writing Life (Paperback)
One of the best books I've read on writing. Instead of a boring, technical "how to" book Elizabeth George generously shares her way of writing a novel.

It's a good read in itself if you want to know about the craft behind a novel. She writes about her way of plotting and designing characters and finding a setting.

Especially encouraging are the extracts from her writing journal that goes to show that even successful writers have doubts ...

She also gives an insight into her personal life and how writing is a part of it. I love to hear about different writers habits, how many hours a day they write and what routines they go through etc. etc. I particularly like the chapter about bum glue, how important it is to have discipline and passion rather than talent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Write Book, 22 July 2010
By 
Susie Q (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Write Away: One Novelist's Approach To Fiction and the Writing Life (Paperback)
I found this book by accident when browsing for other books on writing. What a serendipitous find. I found Elizabeth George's logical approach to creating a novel very easy to follow. It doesn't talk down to you as some books have a tendency to, and really covered the basics of crafting your idea into a finished novel.

I found the chapters on Landscape; Voice (You Gotta Have 'Tude) and constructing Scenes, particularly helpful. She covered aspects of writing that I haven't come across in other publications.

If you prefer to construct and write a novel 'by the seat of your pants' then this book won't appeal to you. But, if like me you prefer a structured approach to your writing then I would highly recommend you add this book to your reading pile.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 3 Jan. 2010
By 
C. Kirby "Catherine Kirby" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Write Away: One Novelist's Approach To Fiction and the Writing Life (Paperback)
This is the best book on writing I've read. Elizabeth George doesn't talk down or say all the usual stuff you've read a thousand times elsewhere dressed up to sound new. It's inspiring and facilitating. I can only recommend that people who want to improve their writing or start to write read this book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study in writing, 1 Sept. 2013
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I found this to be an excellent study in writing, not only of how Elizabeth George writes her novels but also the small vignettes which give you an insight into her. Who would have thought such an accomplished author would have doubts about her writing! I feel this book had more than a nod towards the writing classes she teaches, something I found particularly useful. Her particular way of working resonated with me and I have tried to implement many of her techniques. This book should be a part of any budding writer's book shelf, along with Stephen King's 'On Writing', of course.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great but..., 21 Feb. 2009
...some of her techniques were a little unclear to me at one point, so *gasp* I had to re-read :-) But, definitely one of the better self-help books out there.

If you're serious about novel writing then give this a go but, I would advise not to be undermined by them, and to get on with writing your book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Advice, 27 Dec. 2012
By 
A. Baker "Andy Baker" (Amsterdam, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Write Away: One Novelist's Approach To Fiction and the Writing Life (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book. I learned a lot. Hers is certainly not the kind of writing I do, but the advice is applicable to other kinds of writing - i.e. general or literary fiction rather than crime stories and the such.
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Write Away: One Novelist's Approach To Fiction and the Writing Life
Write Away: One Novelist's Approach To Fiction and the Writing Life by Elizabeth George (Paperback - 14 Feb. 2005)
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