Classic Review: Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

With my new book coming out soon and NaNoWriMo just two weeks after that, it seemed an appropriate time to revisit one of my favorite books about writing.  It isn’t my biggest influence, but it’s one of the best for bringing together a LOT of writing concepts in a fun and accessible way.  Something of a young adult nonfiction book, but recommended for any age too!

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If I had read Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine when I was twelve, I think it would have changed my life.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t published until I was several years past twelve, and I didn’t read it until I was in college.  But it was still an excellent read then.

Writing Magic, as you may have guessed, is a book about writing, by one of my favorite authors.  I reviewed her best-known book, Ella Enchanted, early on in this blog.  Writing Magic is a wonderful book for kids who want to write.  It’s filled with good advice of all sorts: save what you write; jot down ideas; pay attention to details; make your characters suffer sometimes.  She covers coming up with ideas, writing the actual story, and working through revisions.  The book discusses practical things like the best way to write dialogue, and discusses why you might feel inspired to write to begin with.  And there are writing prompts at the end of every chapter.

This is a great book on writing, and I think it would also be a lot of fun for anyone who has read Levine’s novels–at least, it was for me!  She illustrates writing lessons with examples from her own books–not only by plucking scenes out of the published books, but also sharing pieces of earlier drafts, or talking about what a story started out looking like, and how her ideas changed along the way.  I love knowing the story behind the story.

If you get to the end of the book and want more, there’s good news: Levine has a blog.  It’s a lot like an extension of this book, with discussions on aspects of writing (and writing prompts at the end of each post).  One thing I particularly enjoy about it is the emphasis on young adult/children’s fantasy.  It makes sense–that’s what she writes, after all–and it’s fun to see a genre written about which is not so much a focus in more literary writing books I’ve read, and not at all a focus in most of my writing classes.  And don’t feel that you have to write children’s fantasy to get anything out of her blog (or her book).  The advice is good across genres; it just has a flavoring of children’s fantasy, and is more likely to use fairy tales than Virginia Woolf to draw an example.

The only reason Writing Magic didn’t change my life was that it reached me at a point when I had already read other books on writing, taken a lot of writing classes, and just had already heard a lot of the advice Levine gives.  It was still helpful!  Just less life-altering than it would have been at a younger age.  The gift of this book is that she’s put all this advice I picked up piecemeal together in an engaging way that I think kids will find appealing and relatable.  It might have got me farther along faster in my writing to have all of this advice dropped in my lap at a younger age.  So if you know a kid who likes to write–send them to get advice from Gail Carson Levine.

Author’s blog: http://gailcarsonlevine.blogspot.com/ (and it’s linked over in my list too!)

About cherylmahoney

I'm a book review blogger and Fantasy writer. I have published three novels, The Wanderers; The Storyteller and Her Sisters; and The People the Fairies Forget. All can be found on Amazon as an ebook and paperback. In my day job, I'm the Marketing Specialist for Yolo Hospice. Find me on Twitter (@MarvelousTales) and GoodReads (MarvelousTales).
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