Monday, February 20, 2012


Title: Stein on Writing
Author: So Stein
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (January 25, 2000)
Pages: 320

STEIN ON WRITING by SOL STEIN is clearly to date the most impactful book on writing I’ve read. If you were to glance inside my copy you’d find dog-eared pages, highlights galore, asterisks, and notes written throughout.

STEIN ON WRITING is precise information, right to the point with useful examples. The language isn’t over the top. A must read for writers at any stage of their journey, but especially for those new to the craft and unpublished.

Here are a few notes I took pertaining to specific areas of the book:

Page 8 – Feelings, no facts.

Page 20 – Must grasp/shock in first sentence and or paragraph.

Page 36 – The first paragraph should contain:
Trigger curiosity.
What will they see.
Focus on an individual.
Visible characteristics of the individual.
Individual doing or saying something.
Startling or odd fact to grab attention.

Page 42 – Readers insist on seeing what they are reading because of TV.

Page 43 - Description needs to be part of the storytelling, not static.

Page 45 – Storyteller, not an interior decorator.

Page 49 – If characters are alive, they become the story. You must know and be attached to the characters in order for the plot to work, not the other way around.

Page 57 – Talk and act, not tell.

Page 54 – Good examples of showing not telling.

Page 55 – Show with eyes, not just state color. How/what are they expressing.

Page 55, 56 – Words need to not be just informative, but evoke something. Need to stir feelings in readers, even in description.

Page 62 – What makes a character.

Page 71 – Individualize minor characters through main characters eyes, not narrative.

Page 75 – Separate our lives/beliefs from characters.

Page 81 – Character questions to ask.

Page 197 – Get rid of the flab!

Page 260 – Need to visualize each paragraph/scene first to get a sense of the surroundings to give great detail.

If I had to pick one thing that stuck out the most that I learned from STEIN ON WRITING, I would have to say to cut out the flab. After reading about eliminating flab, I went to work on my own manuscript, getting rid of the words that clog our writing and hinder our reading experience.

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