Archive for July, 2009

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain


This is one of several books that I recommend to every beginner I meet. When I first browsed through this book, I often found myself comparing Swain’s advice to that given by one of my favorite writers of books for writers: Jack Bickham. After some study, I discovered the reason. Swain is Bickham’s teacher. Despite that connection, the advice from these two writers is slightly different. Swain looks at writing and creating stories from a slightly different position than Bickham did.

While the advice Swain gives is very similar to Bickham’s, it is much less rigid and the story construction advice seems much more fluid when presented this way. While Swain discusses the same points that Bickham does, Swain often offers much more detail on WHY things are done the way they are. Swain also brings up a number of additional considerations that Bickham either didn’t touch on, or covered only briefly.

Swain’s instructions are open and accessible even though, at times, the information flows pretty fast. There is a lot of good detail about constructing characters, but the main thrust and the bulk of the book is on constructing stories that people will gravitate to. For a book on general story construction, this makes a good place to start.

Even though Swain’s explanations are easy enough for the beginner, they are still complex enough for more advanced hobbyists. After reading a few dozen of these books, If I find one new tip per book I’m ecstatic. I found several here, and I think the foundation Swain builds is good enough everyone should find something to take away.