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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 7 January 2006
Everytime I read this book it inspires me to keep on going.
It has shown me several serious mistakes that I had made in my writing of commercial fiction and I would recommend it as the ideal book for any struggling authors - particularly us unpublished amateurs who are still learning with an intent to go commercial.
I find this the perfect book to take to airports or bus stations as the chapters are short and pithy. Each 'mistake' will only take a couple of minutes to read but should arouse much thought about your own work. They say that the only way to become a rule breaker - a maverick who sets their own rules or forges their own style is to know the rules. This book shows you the rules so that if you decide to break them then at least you know what you are doing and why it may or may not work.
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on 27 January 2000
Although the title sounds negative, this book pulls no punches in telling you exactly what you should be doing with your writing. I particularly found his advice on the craft of writing scene structure useful. I have no hesitation in recommending it - it's a great buy.
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on 22 August 1998
In this very short volume, Bickham manages to get to the essence of writing good popular fiction. His language is very easy to understand, very easy to apply, and yet reveals his decades of experience. He has distilled it all down into this one book, and it's a must for all those who want to write more effective popular fiction. For those looking for even more, try his 'How to Write and Sell Your Novel', which contains longer, more in-depth treatment of the material.
Warning: For those wanting to write 'literary fiction' or such stuff, this is not the book for you.
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on 2 January 2008
Whilst by no means a complete waste of time, Bickman's book doesn't have the general application that some better guides offer. It's probably quite useful if you write romance, or pulp westerns and espionage thrillers as Mr Bickman himself apparently did - anything with a single protagonist battling against the odds - but for most other genres his limited (and limiting) advice is less than helpful. Personally I write fantasy, horror and science-fiction, and the model he puts forward as mandatory for any good fiction would exlude many of the great works in those genres (as well as the majority of literary classics, for that matter). As proof of this there's the fact that Bickman offers almost no examples to cooborate his arguments, and a couple of the few there are are from his own works! On the plus side, it's a very readable and stirring book, and even if like me you disagree with much of what's said, it at least pushes you to question your own style and decisions. Personally I would recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, as a much more generally applicable and less personal and occassionally bizzare guide than this.
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on 29 May 1998
Pithy, to-the-point, and more useful than any other single book on the subject. Have yet to see the important writing questions asked (and answered) so well. Probably the best first book for aspiring writers to read, well before their manuscripts are finished.
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on 24 November 2004
This book was a great read. An eye opener into the things we do in writing that we do without conscious thought. I bought it based on the reviews that I had read here, it is simple, short and to the point. The writer clearly states would be problems and how in some instances they aren't necessarily bad if considered and used properly. At first I was slightly sceptical about what he was saying because they disagreed with some of my experience, however the writer wrote in detail as to why he says what does and goes as far as to present examples. It is a good indicator of where you are with your own writing and is an helps raise awareness of possible problems that might occur. Not to forget this book inspired me to start being more observant and plan and make notes. For where I want to go with my writing this book is a gem however let it be made clear that it may not be the same experience for all however I will guarantee that if you are an amateur writer there will be at least sections that will be a great help.
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on 20 September 2004
This is an excellent book!!! So many good points. It is a very easy read and to the point on all the main things to consider for short stories or novels. A very quick read. It left me wanting to write. It is very inspiring. I now have a notebook with me at all times to write down my thoughts/ideas/observations. I shall use this book as my reference/guide/friend to keep me on track.
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on 10 April 1998
This book's title doesn't do the contents justice. Slim volume full of practical advice. Maybe more of a beginner's book than Stein's On Writing, but its messages are needed for all writers. Read it in one sitting, then went back and marked numerous passages. One that stays near my work station.
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I wonder how often a child has said to its parents; “But she’s a teacher and she knows!” From such innocent exchanges we learn of general perceptions and, in pretty much the same way, this author seeks to inform us that because he is a writer, he knows. In reality, however, had he taken his own advice and removed all the additional blurb and flowery reasoning to which we are subjected, this entire book would be reduced to little more than one or two pages at best.

And why 38? It really is an obscure number. When my own second book about scuba diving was being considered, the publishers decided to number each of the dive sites described. Up to that point, they had not been counted and we discovered there were 99! Such a number demanded the addition of one more. You get the idea.

For the moment, however, I am actively working on a complete departure from my usual subjects and working on an item of fiction. As such I am happy to be taught by any source. Whilst there may be one or two lessons to be learned from this book, I did find myself likening each one of the 38 to walking several extra miles just to see if any were different from the first.

Altogether, this is a very poor offering where the author, in somewhat resplendent repose upon his own laurels, is seeking to use his success as an author (his words) to add another work to his credit. He pads out the book with over-description and a number of blank pages plus other large blank areas which combine to make the entire product looking like a series of photocopied sheets bound together.

Ordinarily, reading any book by a ‘new’ author (to me that is), leads to an overall interest in other titles from the same person. Not so in this case.

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on 11 August 2011
It's an instructive book and certainly ideal for a beginner, and perhaps useful for those who've been writing for years. I did disagree with some aspects of the book. After all everyone is entitled to an opinion, and criticism of your work from family and friends is valid. It's up to the writer to take it or leave it. Having said that, they do not know about writing techniques. It's well worth reading. There are many useful comments.
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