Mar 6, 2011

Stein on Writing

This week I've sent the first 1,000 words for 'Dog Show Detective' into a literary competition for aspiring writers, with one of the prizes being having your novel considered for publication. I will also send it out to publishers, once I get that dreaded query letter mastered. 

I've also returned to the audiobook Stein on Writing this week. There are a few gems to be found in this  book on advice for would-be writers and writers perfecting their craft. 

Sol Stein knew what it took to be published. As well as being a writer, he edited and published for some masters of fiction and non-fiction.

This book covers all aspects of writing. Stein warns us that description should have more than one purpose; as well as creating a setting or painting a picture, it should reveal something about the story or the narrator's state of mind.

With the trend for fiction to open with the inciting incident, or action, Stein's advice is timeless. Characters come first. An explosive opening might hook the reader in, but can leave you feeling disorientated and unmoved if you haven't gotten to know the characters involved. As Stein says, "We need to see the people in the car before we see it crash."

For me, his best advice is about getting the job of writing done. I know I feel so busy with work and kids and, and, and... that sometimes I feel too tired or stretched to get anything down. I'm pretty sure a lot of writing mums will know what I mean. Or there are the times when you are heading off to visit family, or there's a wedding to go to, or bills to pay and groceries to get. The excuses might change for your situation, but we've all got them. Stein suggests renting the movie 'My Left Foot', then see how well your excuses stand up. It comes down to the Nike slogan: 'Just Do It'.


  1. Good luck with the competition.
    I will look into the book, thanks for sharing. It sounds interesting and useful.

  2. I like the premise of your story. It's bound to attract pet owners. You know, there haven't been many good dog stories written in recent years. Good luck with yours.

  3. I very fortunate to have an editor who is also a bit of a coach and great at encouraging me, drawing out passion and creativity when I feel lethargic.

  4. Good luck with the contest! And I hope you enjoy the reference book, too!

  5. I've always loved the Nike slogan, though I haven't exactly followed it. I admire you perseverence. I hope someday to have the courage to send things in to contests and possible publication.

  6. Glynis - it is a very helpful book, I suggest the hardcopy rather than the audiobook for this one, the narrator is a bit monotone. Makes it hard to pay attention for long.

    Walk2write - Thankyou :) even when I write stories that are not about dogs, there's always at least one that manages to wag his way in.

    Stephen - One of the key elements of success is to have someone to push you when you don't feel like pushing yourself. Sounds like you've got a good coach.

    Erica and Christy - Thanks, I'm not going to wait and watch, the contest doesn't end until June and I think it's announced at their conference in August. I'm just glad to have finally sent it off to someone.

    Myrna - You should try sending your work out, you have very creative and sound writing skills.

    Thanks for the comment luv everyone! :-)

  7. In my opinion, Stein on Writing is one of the best writing books available. I need to read it again.

  8. Because of your descriptions, I have put Stein on Writing on Hold at my library and look forward to reading it.

    Wishing you success with the competition Charmaine!

  9. Patricia - I agree, I was surprised to learn so much the second time I listened to it.

    Aisha - Thanks :)

    Catherine - You'll get a lot out of Stein - I suggest you make notes! And thanks muchly :)

  10. Hope you all the best in the contest. May you come out victorious.