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Extended Audio Sample Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (994 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sol Stein Narrator: Christopher Lane Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Sol Stein was the Chief Editor at Stein and Day publishers for 27 years and edited such greats as George Orwell, James Baldwin and Dylan Thomas. So Stein on Writing: A Master Editor Shares His Craft, Techniques, and Strategies is culled from experience and provides a no-nonsense guide to what should go and what should stay in any manuscript.

Stein is very detail-oriented when it comes to writing, and he shows the budding author exactly how to phrase little things so that they have a big impact. In his chapter, "How to Show Instead of Tell," he explains the difference between showing and telling, something that every author ought to know. He goes on to explain how there can be different levels of showing. For example, the sentence, "He took a walk" tells, but the sentence, "He walked the four blocks slowly" shows things more clearly. However, "He walked as if against an unseen wind, hoping someone would stop him" shows even more clearly, giving you insight into the character's mind.

In addition to such great advice about pumping up the little details, he also has recommendations about plotting and characterization. He takes an exercise from the Playwright Group of the Actor's Studio and teaches you how to create instant conflict in your work. He's a big believer in keeping things taut and streamlined, as indicated by his chapter on "Liposuctioning Flab," and maintaining the velocity of your writing is addressed in "Amphetamines for Speeding up Pace."

Stein on Writing contains advice for writers of fiction and non-fiction alike, and Stein even points out how non-fiction writers can borrow techniques used by fiction writers to improve their writing. Stein is ruthless when it comes to editing, telling writers to get rid of entire chapters if they are weak. However, his novel idea that editing is like triage helps you to figure out which parts of your book have life and which parts are lacking in vitality.

If one were just telling, one would say that Stein's book is a good resource for writers. However, if you follow Stein's advice of showing rather than telling, it would be appropriate to say that Stein's short and snappy manual will transform the most colorless manuscript into a captivating, provocative book.

Sol Stein was born in 1926 in Chicago, but his family soon moved to New York where he attended City College New York which gave a free education at the time. He also served in the army during the second world war and returned to do a Master's in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He was involved in the fight against McCarthyism and edited the book McCarthy and the Communists, written by James Rorty and Moshe Decter. The book is said to have been instrumental in unseating Senator McCarthy. Stein also started Stein and Day publishers with his wife Patricia Day; the firm published a hundred books a year until it was forced to close down. Stein himself is the author of nine novels and three books of non-fiction.

Stein on Writing provides immediately useful advice for writers of fiction and nonfiction, whether newcomers or accomplished professionals. As Sol Stein, renowned editor, author, and instructor, explains, “This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions—how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place.”

With examples from his bestsellers as well as aspiring students’ writing, Stein offers detailed sections on characterization, dialogue, pacing, flashbacks, liposuctioning flab, the “triage” method of revision, using the techniques of fiction to enliven nonfiction, and more. This is an essential guide for writers at every level.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Stein on Writing is the best book on writing that I have read…The tips, shortcuts, and plentiful examples of good writing versus bad cannot fail to help every writer, no matter at what stage he finds himself.”

    Barnaby Conrad, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Offers a banquet of savvy advice...Stein aims not to help his readers wrestle with writerly anguish; rather, he gets on the page, citing examples from writers famous and fledgling, closely analyzing first sentences, creation of character, plotting, and dialogue.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “This book can jump-start anyone’s creativity. Highly recommended for all writing collections.”

    Library Journal

  • “[Stein] went over my manuscript with an ifallible eye for the soft spots in my prose, giving me one of the best editorial readinds I've ever had.”

    Lionel Trilling, author of The Middle of the Journey

  • “A practical guide for writers by a master editor who has worked with such figures as Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin, and Jack Higgins covers character development, speeding up the pace, applying the Actors Studio Method, and creating suspense and tension.”


Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Phyllis Porche | 2/17/2014

    " Awesome book! As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction I found numerous ways to improve my writing. I listened to the audiobook and many times I found myself rethinking parts of my novel while listening to Stein's advice. So much so, that I had to rewind and relisten (after jotting down my notes, that is). A great book for any writer! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Matthias | 2/15/2014

    " the best book i've read on writing. great ideas given in such a way that you can immediately apply them to your work. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Michael Jones | 2/14/2014

    " I don't necessarily agree with the author's perspective, and there is some inappropriate content, but his ideas about writing good dialogue and keeping a story moving are worth very much to a writer. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Laurie | 2/11/2014

    " I'm about halfway through this book and pretty disappointed with it so far, though it was recommended by a writer I respect. Stein's examples of "good" writing seem pretty hacky to me and often when he's explaining something, his logic seems really flawed to me. Still plugging through it. "

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About the Author
Author Sol Stein

Sol Stein is a prizewinning playwright produced on Broadway, an anthologized poet, the author of nine novels, and an award-winning teacher of writers. He has edited some of the most successful writers of the century. He is the author of Stein on Writing and How to Grow a Novel and creator of the computer programs WritePro®, FictionMaster®, and FirstAid for Writers®.