Fairy-tale master Gail Carson, the bestselling author of Ella Enchanted, guides writers of all ages on how to develop their craft, with practical advice and heartfelt encouragement.
In Writing Magic, Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine shares her tricks of the trade. She shows how you can get terrific ideas for stories, invent great beginnings and endings, write sparkling dialogue, develop memorable characters—and much, much more.
She advises you about what to do when you feel stuck—and how to use helpful criticism. Best of all, she offers writing exercises that will set your imagination on fire.
With humor, honesty, and wisdom, Gail Carson Levine shows you that you, too, can make magic with your writing.
About the Author
Gail Carson Levine's first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a Newbery Honor Book. Levine's other books include Ever, a New York Times bestseller; Fairest, a Best Book of the Year for Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and a New York Times bestseller; Dave at Night, an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults; The Wish; The Two Princesses of Bamarre; A Tale of Two Castles; and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction books Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink, as well as the picture books Betsy Who Cried Wolf and Betsy Red Hoodie. Gail Carson Levine and her husband, David, live in a two-centuries-old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley of New York State.
Read an Excerpt
Creating Stories that Fly
By Gail Levine
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
A Running Start
This is a book about writing fiction. But it should help you write anything: e-mails, essays, greeting cards, love letters, skywriting.
Pick one of the options below and use it as the beginning of a story. You can revise the sentences a little or a lot to make them work better for you. Feel free to change the names and to turn boys into girls or vice versa. Write for at least twenty minutes.
Oh, and have fun!
I have one green eye and one brown eye. The green eye sees truth, but the brown eye sees much, much more.
The ghost was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
"Be nice," my father said. "After all, he's your brother."
I am the most famous twelve-year-old in the United States.
Jason had never felt so foolish before, and he hoped he'd never feel so foolish again.
If somebody didn't do something soon, they were going to have a catastrophe on their hands.
Alison was the runt of the family, born small and ill-favored, and by the time she was thirteen, she was still small and ill-favored.
It was a witchy house: the low-slung roof; that quiet gray paint; those squinting, shuttered windows; and the empty porch rocker that rocked, rocked, rocked day and night.
The first time I saw Stephen, he painted a hex sign on my right arm,and I couldn't move my fingers for three hours.
Ms. Fleming's wig had gone missing.
Okay, you've done it. Congratulations! If you haven't finished your story, save it so you can work more on it later. If you have finished, also save it.
At this point if you want to go back and use one of the other beginnings to write another story, please help yourself. Two stories are better than one, and three are better than two. If you like, you can write ten stories, or double up and write twenty!
Now here are a few rules for this book and for writing:
1. The best way to write better is to write more.
2. The best way to write better is to write more.
3. The best way to write better is to write more.
4. The best way to write more is to write whenever you have five minutes and wherever you find a chair and a pen and paper or your computer.
5. Read! Most likely you don't need this rule. If you enjoy writing, you probably enjoy reading. The payoff for this pleasure is that reading books shows you how to write them.
6. Reread! There's nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become part of you, in a way that words in a book you've read only once can't.
7. Save everything you write, even if you don't like it, even if you hate it. Save it for a minimum of fifteen years. I'm serious. At that time, if you want to, you can throw it out, but even then don't discard your writing lightly.
That last rule needs explaining. I used to think, long ago, that when I grew up, I'd remember what it felt like to be a child and that I'd always be able to get back to my child self.
But I can't.
When you become a teenager, you step onto a bridge. You may already be on it. The opposite shore is adulthood. Childhood lies behind. The bridge is made of wood. As you cross, it burns behind you.
If you save what you write, you still won't be able to cross back to childhood. But you'll be able to see yourself in that lost country. You'll be able to wave to yourself across that wide river.
Whether or not you continue to write, you will be glad to have the souvenirs of your earlier self.
The three items below aren't rules; they're vows. Say them aloud.
The Writer's Oath
I promise solemnly:
1. to write as often and as much as I can,
2. to respect my writing self, and
3. to nurture the writing of others.
I accept these responsibilities and shall honor them always.
Excerpted from Writing Magic
by Gail Levine
Copyright © 2006 by Gail Levine.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although WRITING MAGIC is geared towards young adults, this is the perfect helper for anyone who has ever wanted to write a book. Creating stories is hard work. It takes practice, discipline, and dedication. It would be nice to think that writing a book simply means sitting down and typing up words, but, alas, it really doesn't work that way. Thankfully, though, we have Gail Carson Levine, Newbery Honor author of some of my favorite books (ELLA ENCHANTED, THE TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE, and the upcoming FAIREST, to name a few) who has taken the time to put together WRITING MAGIC. Filled with tons of wonderful tips about becoming a great writer who creates even greater stories, there are also writing exercises to get those creative juices flowing.
The book is broken down into five sections, with several categories in each:
Section one is entitled Liftoff, which includes A Running Start, Why I Wrote This Book, Shut Up!, Eureka!, Getting into It, and Noticing.
Section two, Heart and Guts, includes The Nitty-Gritty, The Kiss of Life, Character Helper, Suffer!, Talking, Back to Beginnings, Where Am I?, Who Am I?, Voice, and Happily Ever After--Or Not.
Section three, Plowing Through, includes Stuck!, The Operating Room, and Writers' Groups and Other Helpers.
Section four, Digging Deeper, includes Show and Tell, Abracadabra!, I'd Recognize Her with My Eyes Closed, Speaking Body Language, Method Writing, Writing Funy/Writing Punny, The Right Moniker, and Fiddling with Fairy Tales.
The final section, called Writing Forever, includes Writing for Your Spirit, Putting Your Words Out There, and Exeunt Writing.
I loved the writing exercises included in WRITING MAGIC. From the simple (writing brief character descriptions) to the more advanced (writing convincing dialogue), this book is a great tool for anyone. If you've ever wondered how to get started writing a story, ever questioned how to get that great book idea down on paper, this is the guide for you. Pick up a copy of WRITING MAGIC, try the exercises, take Ms. Levine's words to heart, and you're guaranteed to write anything--story, e-mail message, diary entry--with an easier flow and style.
Great & easy read. Like the example given and the writing time and her encouragement to save everything and to have fun. I am glad I bought this book because it has given insight and ideas about writing, and even answered some questions I had on writing.
I am really passionate about writing, and will publish my stories under the pseudonym 'OhMyRowling123'. Thanks!! ;)
Her name is Fern, Fern Wilden. She was born on a moderately sunny day in northern Nebraska, commonly known as the middle of nowhere. When you grow up nowhere, you get to know endless fields of sky-high corn stalks, and flawless sunsets touching the horizon. There was no ocean, and the little old lake was the biggest body of water around. However, things change, and Fern Wilden didn't get to spend the rest of her life with the cattle and acres of prarie. She moved to New York in October, just barely missing Halloween. Because Fern Wilden dreamed of being an actress, like her mother, whom had passed on Broadway, living her ambition. She starred in the Phantom Of The Opera, Catherine, for eight years, the Lion Kings Princess for two years, Matilda's Miss Honey for two years, and a few more productions. She died on set one night, namely the Thanksgiving show, which was not supposed to be done in the first place. Thanksgiving Eve was a gloomy one for Fern, giving her constant memories of her mother Judy and Nebraska. As she resided, sobbing in her small cornors apartment in the Manhattan division that was also being rented out to tourists for scare money, she thought. Her first ever Thanksgiving out of the old barn house in which she was raised would probably be spent alone, or with the horribly tanned housemates she had recently acquired. She was stuck mentally and physically, not knowing what to do and what not. There was no oven, not even a toaster in the apartment, and Fern had no morals to take a taxi or eat out, as it would be at the expense of another workers Thanksgiving. So Fern left her living quarters for Broadway Blvd, deciding to honor her mother by going to waste almost all of her saved money on The Phantom Of the Opera Tickets, her mother's death play. She also decided to walk- it was a cool, foggy day, which was her favorite type of weather. It was a bad descion nevertheless- halfway there, she ended up at the docks, then realised most of New York would be caught in traffic due to the famous Macy's Day Parade on 34th street. A tear trickled down her cheek embedded with faded sun freckles, dropping freshly into the drifting water below. She thought it was a terrible mistake to move to New York, running her hands delicately over the rusting dock rails. Fern was gazing out at Lady Liberty as she heard the ever so familiar sound of a car door shutting swiftly behind her. She turned her head slightly, noticing a tall Brazillian woman begin to start towards her. "Hello," Fern greeted, mustering up enough kindness as she could for the sweet looking lady. "I am Chila Nela. Call me Nela." The woman introduced herself arupbtly, using a calm voice as smooth as butter. "Nice Thanksgiving," With her thick accent, she pronounced each vowel slowly. "I'm F-Fern." She replied with a quiver in her voice, blinking away tears to look at the strange person. She shot a look towards her car, which was a gleaming black sports car. The misty air blew their hair back, and the two strangers moved their thick hair out of their faces in sync. "Oh yes. Yes I know, I do." Nela sighed. Fern began to back away, used to being encountered by odd people. She glared hopefully back out to the sea, trying to spot Ellis Island. "Fern Wilden. I know your mom, Judy. She nice woman. I go to college with her." She mumured, staring wistfully at the waters as well. "She die today." Nela whispered to Fern. Fern's shoulders shook, half out of shock. continued next res
November thirteenth, 2016. Dear diary, Mom has been stressed all month. Thanksgiving is at our house this year, and usually that means Dad cooks it. Not this year. Mom and Dad got divorced last week, and now he lives in Manhattan. It's just me and mom now. Mom isn't th cooking type. Or the hostess type, for that matter. She's more of the...babysitting type. I'm the dorky girl with glasses type. Yep, that's me. Straight brown hair, glasses that take up half my face, and a 4'9 twelve year old. Named Agnes. What could be worse? Anyway, mom is trying to cook turkey in the kitchen, and it smells like smoke. I'd better go help her before the house burns down. I will talk sometime soon. Maybe. Sincerely, Agnes Rose Harper. November 18th, 2016 Dear Diary, Mom finally finished getting most of the food done. I will just be glad when Thanksgiving is over, cause then I get to be with dad until New Year. I am usually supposed to stay with mom, but I also get to stay with dad four times a year. Thats what mom said. But another reason Im not looking forward to Thanksgiving is because mom always makes us say what we are thankful for. I cant really think of anything to be thankful for. I live in a big dirty city, my parents are divorced, my dog died yesterday, and my teachers at school really REALLY hate me. So, yeah. I have to think of something, but it will take a lot of thinking. Which is what I should be doing now. Bye! Sincerely, Agnes Rose Harper. November 20th, 2016 Dear Diary, I still have not decided what I am thankful for, and mom tried to help me out. She suggested friends, but then I informed her I didn't have any. Then she suggested food, but we have eaten McDonald's cheeseburgers for the past month. Ewww. Today was just like every other day, i got dropped of at school, failed a few tests, got bullied by Sasha Fredericks, missed the bus home, and then it rained. Just one typical day in the life of me, Agnes Rose Harper. Grandma arrived yesterday. She will stay with us for two weeks. She is the type of Grandma who seems all nice and cheery, when, WHAM! She throughs a plate on the floor and starts swearing if her food is too salty. Not the typical nice old lady with a cane. She took up bowling at eighty-five. EIGHTY-FIVE! Anyway, mom just told me I got a call from dad, so I had better go anwer it. G'bye. Sincerely, Agnes Rose Harper. November 21st, 2016 Dear Diary, I cannot believe it. Yesterday, when mom said that I got a call from dad, I went into the kitchen, only to see my Dad and Mom hugging and crying happy tears! Apparently, they realized how horrible life was away from each other and how much they loved each other, and they decided to get married again, for good, on Thanksgiving day! Now that is something to be thankful for! Sincerely, Agnes Rose MASON. ( Back to dad's last name)
You did a good job but we still won't tell you if you won because you were the first but i guess that gives you an advantage. I am the brother of Amy, the one that made this contest and the judge. I really really loved your story and im kinda like the assistant judge. I'll make sure that Amy knows what a great job you did. Maybe you will win. I guess only time can tell. Good luck!!!!!!!!!! ;)
Best book ever! I thought it was so cool and super helpful! I felt like Gail was with me helping me out with my writing. I loved the writing prompts. This book got me so excited to write, more than I ever have been before. I can't wait to read the sequel!
Great book that really helps and geys you interested
Wow! I read this once and have been trying to find it again ever since! I highly reccomend!
This really helped me thank u soooooooo much:) :)
This book is really helpful for people like me who wants to be an author but are having a touch time getting their feet off the ground. it teaches you everything from good beginnings to getting unstuck to putting on the finishing touches. If you want a fun, honest way to write fiction then buy this book!
You should get this book, as it has given my writing a HUGE kick-start.