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Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror: Speculative Genre Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers

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Featuring speculative fiction-writing exercises from Harlan Ellison (R), Piers Anthony, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, screenwriters of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and many more.   The fifth volume in the acclaimed Now Write! writing-guide series offers a full toolbox of advice and exercises for speculative fiction writers hoping to craft an engagin Featuring speculative fiction-writing exercises from Harlan Ellison (R), Piers Anthony, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, screenwriters of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and many more.   The fifth volume in the acclaimed Now Write! writing-guide series offers a full toolbox of advice and exercises for speculative fiction writers hoping to craft an engaging alternate reality, flesh out an enthralling fantasy quest, or dream up a bloodcurdling plot twist, including: -Harlan Ellison (R), on crafting the perfect story title -Jack Ketchum, on how economy of language helps create a truly frightening tale -Piers Anthony, on making fantastical characters feel genuine and relatable Among the other writers incluided are: Steven Barnes, Peter Briggs, David Brin, Sara B. Cooper, Brian James Freeman, Joe R. Lansdale, Bruce McAllister, Vonda N. McIntyre, William F. Nolan, Michael Reaves, Melissa Scott, Michael Dillon Scott, Vanessa Vaughn and others. This collection of storytelling secrets from top genre writers—including winners of Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, and Bram Stoker awards—is essential for any writer looking to take a leap beyond the ordinary.


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Featuring speculative fiction-writing exercises from Harlan Ellison (R), Piers Anthony, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, screenwriters of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and many more.   The fifth volume in the acclaimed Now Write! writing-guide series offers a full toolbox of advice and exercises for speculative fiction writers hoping to craft an engagin Featuring speculative fiction-writing exercises from Harlan Ellison (R), Piers Anthony, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, screenwriters of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and many more.   The fifth volume in the acclaimed Now Write! writing-guide series offers a full toolbox of advice and exercises for speculative fiction writers hoping to craft an engaging alternate reality, flesh out an enthralling fantasy quest, or dream up a bloodcurdling plot twist, including: -Harlan Ellison (R), on crafting the perfect story title -Jack Ketchum, on how economy of language helps create a truly frightening tale -Piers Anthony, on making fantastical characters feel genuine and relatable Among the other writers incluided are: Steven Barnes, Peter Briggs, David Brin, Sara B. Cooper, Brian James Freeman, Joe R. Lansdale, Bruce McAllister, Vonda N. McIntyre, William F. Nolan, Michael Reaves, Melissa Scott, Michael Dillon Scott, Vanessa Vaughn and others. This collection of storytelling secrets from top genre writers—including winners of Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, and Bram Stoker awards—is essential for any writer looking to take a leap beyond the ordinary.

30 review for Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror: Speculative Genre Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers

  1. 5 out of 5

    John Hill

    I used to have this big complex about buying books on writing. My father had always told me that good writers write and if I spend all my time reading about writing I'm never actually going to write anything. And he was right, to a degree. A teacher friend, who also writes quite a bit, pointed out to me the other day, that just because I am a teacher, doesn't mean I stop reading books on teaching. I use those books to further my craft and to discover ways of doing things that I had never thought I used to have this big complex about buying books on writing. My father had always told me that good writers write and if I spend all my time reading about writing I'm never actually going to write anything. And he was right, to a degree. A teacher friend, who also writes quite a bit, pointed out to me the other day, that just because I am a teacher, doesn't mean I stop reading books on teaching. I use those books to further my craft and to discover ways of doing things that I had never thought about before. That statement changed the way I feel about writing books. I now see them as a way to further my craft. That being said, I am not sure that "Now Write" was a very good example for me to read. Not that it was a horrible book, it wasn't, I just feel like the title was a bit misleading. The majority of the essays and writing exercises in this book seemed geared more for screenwriters and horror fiction writers. SF and Fantasy had a very small showing with a few essays on world building and character creation. The writing prompts I could have actually done without. For the most part they are the same old exercises and prompts anyone familiar with creative writing has seen. I would have rather had the author discuss the process behind their work in a conversational tone than have had them come up with an exercise that doesn't always make the most sense. As I said, this was an OKAY book on writing, I just don't know that it was an OKAY book for MY writing.

  2. 4 out of 5

    James

    A standout among the many books on writing I've picked up over the years - both down-to-earth and inspiring, with a lot of useful concrete information. I'd recommend this for any aspiring fiction writer, especially in the genres listed in the title.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Bea

    Very helpful book. I will be purchasing a copy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Gordon

    Great inspiration for whenever I'm in a writing slump. Really helped me a lot :)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    With advice from writers from all areas, screenwriting, novel writing, short stories writing, (even a comic writer), this book explored areas pertinent to the speculative genre and gave exercises to grow your work. While not every article will be everyone's cup of tea, the articles are well thought out and great advice with interesting and sometimes unique suggestions on things to do to work on your project. This is not a book that has to be read in order or needs every piece read to understand With advice from writers from all areas, screenwriting, novel writing, short stories writing, (even a comic writer), this book explored areas pertinent to the speculative genre and gave exercises to grow your work. While not every article will be everyone's cup of tea, the articles are well thought out and great advice with interesting and sometimes unique suggestions on things to do to work on your project. This is not a book that has to be read in order or needs every piece read to understand (there were a few I skipped), a jem just might be missed. The "romantic" articles I skipped (I don't write those and found it a little uncomfortable) and one contributing author was a little stuck up and insulting in his piece. But, this book contained a lot of great advice which I marked to look back on and try. This book would best be enjoyed by those who have written for a while and are looking for something to specifically go deeper into their genre.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    Brief essays introduce over 80 exercises by writers of sci-fi, fantasy and horror. 15 of the essays/exercises go above humdrum advice, to truly inspire. "Catching Up with the Future" by Douglas McGowan and "Story Endings: Where Monsters Lurk" by Lois Gresh are two of those. The rest, meh. My biggest nitpick is how many of the contributors were from TV/movies. I would've preferred that all contributors have a background in literature, teaching or writing. (It's already tough enough to find spec fic Brief essays introduce over 80 exercises by writers of sci-fi, fantasy and horror. 15 of the essays/exercises go above humdrum advice, to truly inspire. "Catching Up with the Future" by Douglas McGowan and "Story Endings: Where Monsters Lurk" by Lois Gresh are two of those. The rest, meh. My biggest nitpick is how many of the contributors were from TV/movies. I would've preferred that all contributors have a background in literature, teaching or writing. (It's already tough enough to find spec fic that reads like a book rather than a movie.) But if you write, say, novels and screenplays, you'll find many of these exercises useful. 3.5 stars

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura Trent

    I am a reader who dabbles in writing. What most impressed me about this book was the incredible variety of exercises and ideas. I think the editor may have had in mind to hit as many bases as possible, to cover a variety of needs. The editor succeeded. I loved the chapters by the very famous authors whose names are on the cover. I also got quite a lot from the chapters called "The Setting in Horror" by Lisa Morton and "Break the Compass" by Lance Mazmanian. This book certainly put me on another I am a reader who dabbles in writing. What most impressed me about this book was the incredible variety of exercises and ideas. I think the editor may have had in mind to hit as many bases as possible, to cover a variety of needs. The editor succeeded. I loved the chapters by the very famous authors whose names are on the cover. I also got quite a lot from the chapters called "The Setting in Horror" by Lisa Morton and "Break the Compass" by Lance Mazmanian. This book certainly put me on another level of discovery in my own work and I recommend it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    T.R. Sutherland

    This book is full of inspiration and great exercises. I will definitely check out the other books in this series.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Blair Hodgkinson

    Some very interesting insight and exercises are offered in this writing-help guide. I intend to follow through on quite a few of them.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Borrowed this from the library just to see if it could help my writing and ended up buying it because it has tons of helpful excercises in it, as well as advice from authors.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steven Atwood

    This book has some great tips The tips contained within this book from the experts make it a must read for any aspiring author. I recommend this to anyone interested in writing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    These exercise books are most useful after you've completed a first draft and need to consider revision strategies. I picked up some good ideas here.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I'm not the biggest fan of this series, since entries are frustratingly brief. But some of these, such as entries on worldbuilding, were very useful. I never do the exercises, and perhaps that's part of the problem. It may be you should complete the exercises to get the most out of this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    This is an excellent collection of essays and exercises for genre writers at any skill level. It covers a wide variety of topics from characterization to setting to plot to technique. The essays/exercises cover a variety of genres (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.) and media (poetry, TV, film, novels, etc.) I think there’s a little something in here for everyone interested in writing genre fiction. Overall, I found the exercises interesting, though I haven’t tried many yet. I also think the essays This is an excellent collection of essays and exercises for genre writers at any skill level. It covers a wide variety of topics from characterization to setting to plot to technique. The essays/exercises cover a variety of genres (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.) and media (poetry, TV, film, novels, etc.) I think there’s a little something in here for everyone interested in writing genre fiction. Overall, I found the exercises interesting, though I haven’t tried many yet. I also think the essays were generally well-written and helpful. There were only a few essays I didn’t care for, including the essays by Kate Bernheimer, Lisa Renee Jones, Lois Gresh (this felt like a series of plugs for her own work), William Nolan (wasn’t bad, just simplistic and a little weak), Ben Thompson (also simplistic/weak), Eric Stener Carlson (this was waaaaay too religious for my tastes), and Mario Acevedo (this felt frivolous and borderline misogynistic?). Essays I really enjoyed included the essays by: Vonda N. McIntyre, James Wanless, Ray Obstefeld, Sarah B. Cooper, Lisa Morton, E.E. King, Melissa Scott, Janice Hardy, and Diana Peterfreund. The original reason I picked up this book was because of Harlan Ellison’s essay on titles, which was STELLAR. And so was Reggie Oliver’s essay on voice—it was a stealth awesome piece. I’d absolutely recommend this book to any writer who works with sci-fi/horror/fantasy. Although I think there was much more written here about sci-fi and horror than fantasy, I think everyone can learn something from this book. I know my copy is dog-eared (please don’t hurt me) and full of stars, underlines, etc. In short, a superior collection of superior essays.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tarl

    I will admit, I bought both the physical and electronic versions of this book. Now, I didn't do any of the exercises (okay, that's a lie, I did three of them), but I do intend to go back through the book and do more than a few of them. I also have used examples from this book in my panels at conventions, as well as suggesting them to my writer friends when they have been stuck. Lamson has put together a collection of very short (often 1-2 pages) blurbs by authors/writers about their craft, follow I will admit, I bought both the physical and electronic versions of this book. Now, I didn't do any of the exercises (okay, that's a lie, I did three of them), but I do intend to go back through the book and do more than a few of them. I also have used examples from this book in my panels at conventions, as well as suggesting them to my writer friends when they have been stuck. Lamson has put together a collection of very short (often 1-2 pages) blurbs by authors/writers about their craft, followed by exercises that the reader can do to stretch their creative muscles. In the case of this book, they have to deal with speculative genres, something I work in almost exclusively. At no point did I find any of the blurbs or exercises to be unhelpful, and more often than not, I found myself actually bookmarking them for later use. This is a wonderful book and an even better tool for any writer. There is something in here for everyone, and I pretty much guarantee that at least some of the exercises will apply to the work you are currently doing. I really can't praise this book enough to be honest. It was well put together, the articles are well written, and the exercises are all helpful. So if you are looking for a bit of inspiration or some exercises to help strengthen your craft, I highly recommend you pick up this book! It is going to be one I keep going back to again and again and again over the years.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rick Cook

    A great resource for all writers of the speculative genre! Many true life examples given by today's (and yesteryear's) great writers. Containing short but detailed lessons (typically 3-4 pages each) that get right to the point in specific areas for improvement, this book not only presents examples but, in some cases, counter-examples (things NOT to do). I learn best with quick short lessons, backed with one or more exercises. That's exactly the format this book delivers. Much better and more dire A great resource for all writers of the speculative genre! Many true life examples given by today's (and yesteryear's) great writers. Containing short but detailed lessons (typically 3-4 pages each) that get right to the point in specific areas for improvement, this book not only presents examples but, in some cases, counter-examples (things NOT to do). I learn best with quick short lessons, backed with one or more exercises. That's exactly the format this book delivers. Much better and more direct than Stephen King's "On Writing", this book provides 87 individual lessons on specific subjects grouped into one of ten topics, ranging from "Scene Construction and Style" to "Memorable Heroes, Villains and Monsters" to "Story Development" and "Ideas and Inspirations" for getting through writer's block. The book is a virtual tool kit full of ideas and helpful advice on generating memorable plots and captivating heroes, crafting believable alien worlds, and developing riveting story line and unexpected plot twists. For me, it is a "must have" and holds a semi-permanent location on my writing desk. I've highlighted so many passages and sticky-noted so many pages, it looks like a tele-evangelist's family Bible. Though I've read it cover-to-cover twice, I still refer to it. In fact, I liked it so much, I bought a second copy and gave it to a fellow writer and friend. Beware: you may do the same after reading/using it!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    The question I have after reading this book is, what audience is this meant for? For beginning writers who are looking to get more serious about it (me), this book has almost nothing on process. On the contrary, several of the established authors seem to be trolling beginners by stating that most people are not going to have the talent to write well. If you read a moderate amount, you know this is plainly not true. Shit writers are writing and publishing and selling every day. Writing is a craft The question I have after reading this book is, what audience is this meant for? For beginning writers who are looking to get more serious about it (me), this book has almost nothing on process. On the contrary, several of the established authors seem to be trolling beginners by stating that most people are not going to have the talent to write well. If you read a moderate amount, you know this is plainly not true. Shit writers are writing and publishing and selling every day. Writing is a craft and like any other craft, it requires practice and exercise. Everyone has a publishable book in them - this is a fact (suck it David Brin). Most of the advice given here is pre-writing. Stuff like how to generate ideas that may encourage you to start writing something. Here is some sage advice from the book (these items are listed as writing exercises): 1) Take a walk (this is actual exercise - I think the author got confused here). 2) Talk to children to get dialogue ideas. 3) Try some writing exercises that other people in this book listed, but don't call them exercises. The screen writers have longer sections than the established prolific writers of the type of fiction that this book has in its title. There must be better books on writing out there. I will find them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read this as I was preparing my Reading & Writing Science Fiction class, in hopes of finding some inspiration for in-class writing experiments. The book did fulfill that hope, but the contributions to this anthology are very uneven in terms of quality. Harlan Ellison's essay on titles, for instance, was brilliant--humorous and insightful. Jeremy Wagner's "The Art of Being Horrifically Prolific," on the other hand, seems like terrible advice for any writer, but especially for beginning writers I read this as I was preparing my Reading & Writing Science Fiction class, in hopes of finding some inspiration for in-class writing experiments. The book did fulfill that hope, but the contributions to this anthology are very uneven in terms of quality. Harlan Ellison's essay on titles, for instance, was brilliant--humorous and insightful. Jeremy Wagner's "The Art of Being Horrifically Prolific," on the other hand, seems like terrible advice for any writer, but especially for beginning writers or those juggling families and/or full-time jobs. The exercises themselves sometimes seemed too similar to one another, and a few were so basic that I couldn't imagine them being helpful to most writers. There are some shining, strange examples, though, like Aimee Bender's "The Secret Room" and Nancy Kress' "Follow the Money," that are definitely worth looking into if you're a writer or teacher of speculative fiction.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sigourney Penna

    As the cover states "Today's Best Writers and Teachers" which adds up to an absolutely wonderful book. I think authors at any publication level can find useful things here. I certainly did. Many of the contributors are well known and some are emerging but all seem fully in command of their craft. The level of advice and tips offered in each person's exercise range from very basic to extremely advanced and I for one appreciated this broad approach to the lessons. The cover art reminds me of my da As the cover states "Today's Best Writers and Teachers" which adds up to an absolutely wonderful book. I think authors at any publication level can find useful things here. I certainly did. Many of the contributors are well known and some are emerging but all seem fully in command of their craft. The level of advice and tips offered in each person's exercise range from very basic to extremely advanced and I for one appreciated this broad approach to the lessons. The cover art reminds me of my days in high school, dreaming and doodling on old fashioned notebook paper. This book is highly recommended. I will be investigating further books in this "Now Write" series.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Massey

    It's a good refresher for inspiration and technical advice that as a writer I've received from attending SFF conferences. It's a keeper for easy to turn to advice. The sections are short and specific, and the titles easily explain what short piece of advice that writer is offering, so you can sample what you need when you need it without reading the entire book cover to cover.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bridget LaMonica

    A fantastic set of exercises to help kickstart your genre-based creativity. Some of the exercises are exactly what you expect, you know the classic write every day stuff. But a good number of them are unique and very valuable. I definitely bookmarked several to return to time and time again whenever I'm stuck

  22. 5 out of 5

    Keith Cochran

    Great advice from authors in speculative fiction including Harlan Ellison, Jack Ketchum and Ramsey Campbell. The exercises are a little corny, but the advice is good. It's made up of essays from different authors on various topics.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Now I realize my status update made it sound like the book had too much to read and that isn't the case, rather that I have too much to read at the moment. I'd go back and reread this book anyday! Fun exercises.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    Occasionally, I stalked through a short chapter and left wanting. However, the easily seen majority were inspiring. Several of those chapters churned over old stale ideas exposing fresh dirt I'm certain I can successfully seed and see a yield in the year to come.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Lynn

    I loved this book. I read it straight through and did several exercises as I read through. Now I have a treasure chest of tricks to dive into when I need inspiration. The variety of contributors from screenwriters to teachers was perfect.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    Impressive gathering of advice by many well-known writers. The exercises are many and varied.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    This book is a must read for those who are looking to write fiction. The book has great exercises and insights to get past writer's block and into writing a great story!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    This is a great go-to book for writing exercises focused on SF/F. It really gets into the core of the field. I put it on my Kindle so I can write anywhere!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Claire Davis

    This is so great! I am seriously considering buying this book for all the great advice and exercises in this book. Fun, easy to read, A+ advice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Useful tools for writers A great many writing exercises from various people. Each one gives s different view point on proceeds. Choices helpful no matter your writing style.

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