Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life

Written by: Terry Brooks

Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life Book Cover
In Sometimes the Magic Works, New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks shares his secrets for creating unusual, memorable fiction. Spanning topics from the importance of daydreaming to the necessity of writing an outline, from the fine art of showing instead of merely telling to creating believable characters who make readers care what happens to them, Brooks draws upon his own experiences, hard lessons learned, and delightful discoveries made in creating the beloved Shannara and Magic Kingdom of Landover series, The Word and The Void trilogy, and the bestselling Star Wars novel The Phantom Menace.

In addition to being a writing guide, Sometimes the Magic Works is Terry Brooks’s self-portrait of the artist. “If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical,” says Brooks. This book offers a rare opportunity to peer into the mind of (and learn a trick or two from) one of fantasy fiction’s preeminent magicians.
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Sometimes the Magic Works Lessons from a Writing Life Reviews

Sarah
Great book on writing. Enjoyable and useful.
Karen
This was a good memoir, with some good writing tips.
Cybersekkin
A book on writing from a practical perspective. I have enjoyed a number of Terry Brooks' books and this one sheds light on the thinking, the man, and the way he writes.
Dragonlance Chronicles :: Time of the Twins :: The Annotated Legends :: Legacy of the Darksword :: Hook
Charles F. Bond
I got hold of this last Friday and have read it twice already, (this is Monday). Sorry Mark Lawrence, I had to put your 'King of Thorns' down for a few days. Anyway, I must say it's a great read for any aspiring author, and should anyone have friends or kin who are trying to make it in the world of publishing, this is a must read. So why not get them a copy. But before giving it to the desired recipient, take a read of the opening chapter. It may help you understand. Oh by the way, I don't know I got hold of this last Friday and have read it twice already, (this is Monday). Sorry Mark Lawrence, I had to put your 'King of Thorns' down for a few days. Anyway, I must say it's a great read for any aspiring author, and should anyone have friends or kin who are trying to make it in the world of publishing, this is a must read. So why not get them a copy. But before giving it to the desired recipient, take a read of the opening chapter. It may help you understand. Oh by the way, I don't know whether it is the same over the water, but here in the UK, there is a term used which goes, 'He/she is away with the fairies,' (meaning that the person is not all here, or daydreaming), in my case, as I'm sure many others that last word should be 'faeries', if only they knew.

The advice within is sound, but as the great man admits, you should take the parts that apply to you and ignore the parts that you don't feel are right for you. I myself have never outlined a story in the beginning. I see the reasoning for it, but the stories unfold better for me as I write them. Instead I write small notes on what has to happen in various parts of the novel as I write.

Oh and the best thing about this book, and thank you Mr Brooks, for now I have a great excuse for my afternoon lounging. 'No dear, I'm not sleeping, I'm working. Read that book on the coffee table, it's all in there.' [thumbs up]
Martin St-laurent
When you pick up a book and start reading it, you may have a good idea of what you expect. Most of the time, you were right about it; at other times, nothing prepared you for what you discovered while reading the book.

When I started reading that book, I was expecting a list of hard rules of what to do and what not to do when writing fantasy. It is not what this book is about. At least, not from my point of view. Sure, there are a few rules that the author share with us to help those of us who wo When you pick up a book and start reading it, you may have a good idea of what you expect. Most of the time, you were right about it; at other times, nothing prepared you for what you discovered while reading the book.

When I started reading that book, I was expecting a list of hard rules of what to do and what not to do when writing fantasy. It is not what this book is about. At least, not from my point of view. Sure, there are a few rules that the author share with us to help those of us who would like to become successful writers... and they all make sense. But what I discovered in the book and truly enjoyed was the journey that Terry Brooks undertook to achieve his dreams. The journey is told in a very humble way that makes you feel as if you were speaking with the author rather than reading about what he did and how things happened. This is why I loved the book so much and why I almost read it through in just one sitting. I especially enjoyed the chapters describing the lessons learned from Hunter.

I strongly recommend the book to anyone who read books written by Terry Brooks as it is a not only an insight on how passionate mr. Brooks is about writing, but I feel like I know the author better after reading this book. I admire that mr. Brooks relate events so candidly and so humbly. The next time I read a book from mr. Brooks, it will be from a very different perspective.
Shannon Haddock
I first heard of this book years ago and had, in fact, read the iBooks sample of it. But that bit hadn't made enough of an impression on me for me to even remember that it existed.

I was wandering around the library yesterday, looking for anything that jumped out and grabbed my attention, and found this book, recalled that I had liked the first bit, and, well, next thing I knew it was a few hours later and the library was about to close. So I checked it out and devoted the rest of the afternoon t I first heard of this book years ago and had, in fact, read the iBooks sample of it. But that bit hadn't made enough of an impression on me for me to even remember that it existed.

I was wandering around the library yesterday, looking for anything that jumped out and grabbed my attention, and found this book, recalled that I had liked the first bit, and, well, next thing I knew it was a few hours later and the library was about to close. So I checked it out and devoted the rest of the afternoon to finishing it.

It was, possibly, the most captivating look into how writing happens . . . not the nitty gritty grammar stuff, nor even much of the "here's how a plot should work" stuff . . . that I've ever read. I identified with his description of how an author's mind works more than I have with any other description I've seen. I do wonder if this is because his description of playing make-believe in various ways as a child parallels my childhood experiences. I, too, turned to writing when I was older because it was a way to keep making things up.

In short, this book was a fascinating look into the mind of an author that I greatly enjoyed, despite the fact that I've never been able to really get into his fiction.
Jennifer
I really enjoyed reading this book by Terry Brooks. He is one of my favorite authors and it was almost like having him sit here with me and give me answers to questions I hadn't thought to ask. The writing is done in a conversational tone instead of a teaching tone. He gives good advice about using outlines to help spread out your workload, get as much done on the front end to save yourself more work in the end. It was also interesting to find out that the success of Shannara might not of happen I really enjoyed reading this book by Terry Brooks. He is one of my favorite authors and it was almost like having him sit here with me and give me answers to questions I hadn't thought to ask. The writing is done in a conversational tone instead of a teaching tone. He gives good advice about using outlines to help spread out your workload, get as much done on the front end to save yourself more work in the end. It was also interesting to find out that the success of Shannara might not of happened if Lester Del Ray hadn't been trying to prove a point. One would like to believe that if it hadn't happened that way, then it would have happened another way. Shannara was a story that needed to be told and Terry Brooks was the writer to do it. I also like how he points out that there is a difference between writers and authors. Writers seek to write and get better with each book, authors want to be published and get the glory that comes with it.
Ippino
Libro corto, che si legge velocemente in qualche ora.
Qualche spunto interessante, qualche buon consiglio di scrittura, il tutto condito da aneddoti sulla vita professionale di Brooks.
Personalmente, l'unico libro di Brooks che ho provato a leggere è stato "La spada di Shannara", e l'ho mollato (due volte!) dopo un centinaio di pagine, causa il fastidioso senso di plagio del "Signore degli Anelli". Beh, penso che prima o poi affronterò di nuovo Shannara: la lettura di questo piccolo saggio mi ha f Libro corto, che si legge velocemente in qualche ora.
Qualche spunto interessante, qualche buon consiglio di scrittura, il tutto condito da aneddoti sulla vita professionale di Brooks.
Personalmente, l'unico libro di Brooks che ho provato a leggere è stato "La spada di Shannara", e l'ho mollato (due volte!) dopo un centinaio di pagine, causa il fastidioso senso di plagio del "Signore degli Anelli". Beh, penso che prima o poi affronterò di nuovo Shannara: la lettura di questo piccolo saggio mi ha fatto tornare la curiosità.
Janet Eshenroder
I've enjoyed Terry Brooks. It was a delight to read not only about his career but to hear his advice on the writing and publishing process. Some is standard advice for beginning writers (always good to explore from a new viewpoint). Some is practical or unexpected, learned the hard way from experience in the field. Regardless whether you are an aspiring writer interested in what goes into a successful writing career, or a science fiction/fantasy fan curious about the life of your favorite author I've enjoyed Terry Brooks. It was a delight to read not only about his career but to hear his advice on the writing and publishing process. Some is standard advice for beginning writers (always good to explore from a new viewpoint). Some is practical or unexpected, learned the hard way from experience in the field. Regardless whether you are an aspiring writer interested in what goes into a successful writing career, or a science fiction/fantasy fan curious about the life of your favorite author, Terry's book is sure to entertain.
Amy
To be fair, I approached this book with the wrong mindset. I was hoping to get new tips and insights about writing to share with my composition classes and maybe some neat new activities to help my students approach writing in new ways. Instead, I got advice about how to write stories. That's not a bad thing, but in my experience, most students don't yet have the skill set necessary to make connections between the two genres. Still, I might try giving them a chapter and telling them to substitut To be fair, I approached this book with the wrong mindset. I was hoping to get new tips and insights about writing to share with my composition classes and maybe some neat new activities to help my students approach writing in new ways. Instead, I got advice about how to write stories. That's not a bad thing, but in my experience, most students don't yet have the skill set necessary to make connections between the two genres. Still, I might try giving them a chapter and telling them to substitute "evidence" for "character" and "essay" for "story". Who knows? It might work.
Margot
This was a very enjoyable memoir about how Terry Brooks came to be a writer and some of the lessons he learned during the early and later days of his career. Despite the introduction by Elizabeth George and its message of emphasis on craft, don't expect to receive much practical and easily applicable information on writing. This is much more about Brooks's journey and perhaps the imparting of wisdom on some broader lessons that may be useful in general but often more specific circumstances. The This was a very enjoyable memoir about how Terry Brooks came to be a writer and some of the lessons he learned during the early and later days of his career. Despite the introduction by Elizabeth George and its message of emphasis on craft, don't expect to receive much practical and easily applicable information on writing. This is much more about Brooks's journey and perhaps the imparting of wisdom on some broader lessons that may be useful in general but often more specific circumstances. The book contains just one chapter on Brooks's own list of specific writing dos and don'ts.
Emma
This is one only for big fans of Terry Brooks obviously. Having read a lot of his books I was really interested to find out more about the author and there is some information about him in here but for me the parts about him were overshadowed somewhat by the writing guide elements of the book. Of course I expected that he would offer advice to aspiring writers but for me some of those chapters dragged on and again overshadowed the opportunity to find out more about the man himself or how he came This is one only for big fans of Terry Brooks obviously. Having read a lot of his books I was really interested to find out more about the author and there is some information about him in here but for me the parts about him were overshadowed somewhat by the writing guide elements of the book. Of course I expected that he would offer advice to aspiring writers but for me some of those chapters dragged on and again overshadowed the opportunity to find out more about the man himself or how he came up with some of his wonderful ideas.
Charlie
I enjoyed this book - This was not one of those that I would say that I loved, but it is informative, and presented quite well.

Terry Brooks gives writers a look inside his career, at some of the bad choices and good ones that he made along the way. This is an informative read, and he does give some help with the Craft of Writing, but overall, I would not read this a second time, which is what gives my reviews a 5 star rating.

Worth a read if you get the chance, but you can wait until you have th I enjoyed this book - This was not one of those that I would say that I loved, but it is informative, and presented quite well.

Terry Brooks gives writers a look inside his career, at some of the bad choices and good ones that he made along the way. This is an informative read, and he does give some help with the Craft of Writing, but overall, I would not read this a second time, which is what gives my reviews a 5 star rating.

Worth a read if you get the chance, but you can wait until you have the extra money and time to purchase and read.
Casey
As a child, I loved everything Terry Brooks and went to great lengths to read whatever he wrote. When I sent him a letter requesting help on how to get better at writing fantasy, he wrote a personalized letter saying this was a great way to start. While I never realized my goal of becoming a fantastic fantasy writer, his kindness to write back to a child and give insight into a book that really had some great writing tips was very nice. I rated this as five stars because it is a great lesson on As a child, I loved everything Terry Brooks and went to great lengths to read whatever he wrote. When I sent him a letter requesting help on how to get better at writing fantasy, he wrote a personalized letter saying this was a great way to start. While I never realized my goal of becoming a fantastic fantasy writer, his kindness to write back to a child and give insight into a book that really had some great writing tips was very nice. I rated this as five stars because it is a great lesson on his life as a writer and opened my eyes to what that meant.
Ricky
As an aspiring writer and fan of Terry Brooks; Sometimes the Magic Works was a natural book to read.

I've only read two other books on writing (on of them being more on publishing than on writing), and the other was from Stephen King.

The comparison between Brooks and King are very different. The main difference is that Brooks outlined everything he wrote, whereas King would write without outlining.

Both have been an inspiration to me, and offered practical thoughts on the craft of writing.
Susan
I've read several of these instructional books on the writing world by successful authors. Terry Brooks is humble and practical about his career, and there are some real gems of advice. I found it a nice contrast to Stephen King and his fierce indictment of outlines. Brooks believes in outlining your story, and he lays down a case for outlines that matches my personal experience.

But mostly it was just a cheering pick-me-up about writing that came at a good time for me.
Clarice
A series of short essays meditating on his own experiences as a writer, how he became the writer he is, what inspires him, mistakes that he made, meditation about his process, what works for him and what doesn't, and a few solid chapters that cover solid groundwork of good writing. I found this to be a nice look into how a particular writer works, and that always strikes me as interesting and useful.
Julia
I read this for a writer's group. I was surprised how fast I read this book, even at a regular pace. Brooks talks in a cheerful breezy style about the process of writing, what works for him and what didn't, like struggling to write that next book, especially after a successful first one. I could hear echoes of my own experiences. More inspirational for writers, rather than instructive, it's more why I write, rather than how.
John
I am not a big fan of his fantasy novels, but this book about writing had good information. I found it more inspirational than practical advice. But there are times we all need that motivation. Terry certainly knows his craft, he displayed it clearly and pointedly in this book. For anyone interested in writing, don't expect any great revaluations or the "secret sauce" of writing from this book. Nevertheless, I found it interesting and worth reading.
Debbie
Terry Brooks not only writes fantasy wonderfully, he writes instruction to writing very well also. This reads easy and gives writers a wonderful perspective of a writing life. It is very down to earth, with excellent lessons on what to expect as a writer relayed through experience. This is one of those books that the more you read it the more you learn. Definitely a keeper.
TJ
My favorite book abut writing. There are a lot of more popular books about how to write, like Stephen King's, but this is the one I was able to relate to the most. Brooks also mixes in an example story to show you what he means by each concept. Lots of good anecdotes from the life of a professional writer as well.
Tom Hansen
This book was a bit short, but still very good. Terry Brooks is one of my favorite authors. I've loved nearly every book I've read by him. Learning more about his writing process and how he became an author was great, I only wish I had more time to spend with him, like in Stephen King's "On Writing".
Marcello Gorla
Part memoir, part book about writing, Sometimes the Magic Works is fun insight into Terry Brooks' process and ideas. That said, this book doesn't offer anything surprising. That's okay if you're a fan of Brooks. The behind-the-scenes looks are enjoyable, and for writers, the reiteration of important points can never happen too often.
Rachel
This was my writing bible in junior high and high school. For the first time, I realized I wasn't the only person with an overactive imagination and a passion for writing! Terry Brooks has some great stories and some wonderful insights into the world of writing.
D. Rae
A good generalized book on the writing craft. A more "learn by his example" rather than instructional.

Since I thoroughly enjoy his Shannara books, I found this book interesting. But if you don't like his books, you will find this book very light.
Jo Grix
This book is my favorite nonfiction book, hands down. I always recommend it in conversation turns to books about writing or books about authors come up. It's a very fun, fascinating book by a great author.
Leah
Since I hope to actually meet Terry Brooks at MisCon in 2015, I am ramping up my Brooks reading. I really lovely book on his process and how his career has progressed with helpful tips to other writers.
J.M. Paquette
Not a must own, but definitely something to read and refer to for aspiring writers. He's a little more harsh than Stephen King, but straight forward and honest in an incredibly useful way. I really enjoyed this one!
Mindy Hardwick
This is a great book for writers or readers/fans for Terry Brooks. Each short chapter details some aspect of Brooks' writing process. I had never read any of Terry Brooks' books, but reading this one about his writing process and life made me go out and buy his Kingdom for Sale-Sold series.
David Macpherson
Half memoir half writing advice. The advice was rudimintary but his great memoir of being a writer were awesome. I like how contrasted his two novelization jobs, one with Hook as horrible and one with Phantom Menace as a joy/ A short enjoyable book
Heather Clitheroe
An interesting interview with Terry Brooks (though it's not strictly an interview, each chapter seems to function as if it was one). I enjoyed it; a light read, but one that gives some insights into his work and his work ethic.
Sandy Lender
I love the fact that I can hand this book to family members and say, "this explains all that quirkiness."

But it will also make them afraid to have conversations in front of me for fear they will end up as characters in future books. Bwuahahahahahaha.
'chris d
I read this book once a year or so. This is a perfect book for writers who need a little encouragement. His tone is warm and accessible, like a beloved father or uncle. In my opinion, it's a book worthy of purchase to be read many times.
Chris van Gorder
If you want to know what makes the author tick, this book is the one to read. Throughout the book, Mr. Brooks also sprinkles in advice for would-be authors on what to do, and just as importasntly, what NOT to do.
February Four
Reading a published author's thoughts on writing is always illuminating, but this was a particularly edifying book because I write the same way Terry Brooks does. Soemtimes, having that sort of affirmation is important.
Amy-jo
While Sword sparked my interest in writing; this book really made me crave it. Brooks does an excellent job of balancing the technical aspects of his writing style and the creative side to writing fantasy novels.
B Pfeifer
There were some points that I found awesome and very helpful and somethings I disagreed with, and didn't find helpful at all. All in all I would recommend the book. skip the parts that don't work for you and use the ones that do.
Boyd
This is probably the best writing book I've read. It is a real shot in the arm. If you are ever doubting yourself as a writer, pick this one up!
Kaci
Very interesting, witty and sometimes funny description of his writing process. Ran a bit long though.
Mitchell Inkley
Haven't read much from brooks apart from this but it was a fun little book full of good advice.
Vigilanti
A very helpful guide for any aspiring writers and the people who love them.
Heather Young
This was a great read at a time when I wanted to write. I could relate to a lot in this book.
Laura
Some words of wisdom from an established writer - gives me the kick up the arse I need.
RedPaint Spilman
A must read for any aspiring author. Mr. Brooks explains many of the hard learned lessons that he has been through as a professional writer. Very inspiring!
Tyler
Decent book. Other than a spiel for outlining few if any points in here are not made in On Writing by Stephen King in a more eloquent manner.

5/10
Eric
This book has had an influential and profound effect on my writing life. It is very good and I highly recommend it.
Scott
This was a real help! I've been looking from one from a fantasy writer for ages!
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