Book Review: How to Write Magical Words

Book Cover for How to Write Magical Words

Book Cover from Amazon


How to Write Magical Words: a Writer’s Companion is a non-fictional collection of writing advice from the Magical Words blog participants.

A compilation of essays originally published on, a popular writing blog with thousands of regular followers. Distilling three years worth of helpful advice into a single, portable volume, it contains nearly 100 essays covering such wide-ranging topics as:

– Getting Started . . . Again
– Creating Characters in Small Spaces
– Storytelling Tropes: Belief
– Binding Character and Narrative: Point of View
– Word Choice and Pacing
– Metaphors, Similes, and Analogies, Oh My . . .
– Writing Action Scenes
– The Beginning of the End
– Developing Your Internal Editor
– Artistic Choices and the Market
– Business Realities for the Writer

Many of these essays are accompanied by comments and questions from the blog’s readers, along with the author’s response, making this volume unique among how-to books on any subject.

The core members of Magical Words — David B. Coe, A.J. Hartley, Faith Hunter, Stuart Jaffe, Misty Massey, C.E. Murphy, and Edmund R. Schubert — have experience writing and editing fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, romance, science fiction, non-fiction, and more. This group is uniquely qualified to cover the full spectrum of writing-related issues. How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion is a book that belongs in the library of anyone interested in the craft of writing, the business of writing, and the writing life.



How to Write Magical Words is a very good how-to writers book. But face it, there are dozen such books out there.

But not from seven different authors, each giving what works and doesn’t work for them. A tool that might work for one might not work for you – but with seven different people throwing out examples and hints, at least one set of tools will fit your needs. Faith’s metaphoric examples, David’s technical knowledge, Misty’s beginner’s enthusiasm and doubt, Edmund’s editor’s perspective … each author brings something unique to the table.

The best part for me was the Self-Editing section. As someone interested in self-publishing and not yet able to pay an editor – this is the true gem of the book. Describing crutches, and the difference between revising and copyediting, and how to revise dialogue. All gems. “BIC and Rewrite Tips” is something I am going to read through every time I complete a flirt from now on. In fact this book as a whole just became a must-read after completing each of my books and before I post it to Amazon.

(BIC means “butt in chair”)

The only issue is book covers the first 3 years of the blog – 2008 to 2011, and the section on “Business” is getting a little long in the tooth. Vanity press and POD is covered, but not the true self-publishing now available. For that you need to monitor the blog and attend sci-fi/fantasy writer’s conventions such as ConCarolinas and ConDFW. The business has changed so much in the past three years and will continue to change dramatically for the near (and maybe far) future. 

(Review originally written on June 24, 2013)

Other Cool Blogs: Wired August 8, 2014

A Cup Of Coffee On Writers Desk Stock Photo

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at

I see you editing and going nuts. How many times was “throughly…thoroughly” wrong? How could “hte” be missed… ten times? Gird and grid are both real words, who knew? And how many times did the character fire cannons from the brig instead of the bridge. Sigh. Guess it is time for proofreading round number six.

What’s Up with That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos is a blog posting on Wired  from August 2014 written by Nick Stockton which give some insights on proofreading your own work is so hard. (Hint: It is because you are TOO smart.) Click here to read the article.

Editing Rant: Mechanical Means

Man on Horse, photo by Matt Lee

Image courtesy of Matt Lee of Unsplash, cropped by Erin Penn

Never substitute human eyes for mechanical help.

Not that the mechanical help isn’t helpful, because it is. I use two different editing programs as part of my editing process. But I use them very, very carefully. They cut out a lot of easy stuff, allowing me (when I am editing) and my human editor (when I am writing) to concentrate on fixing the real issues.

But mechanical suggestions are just that, suggestions. Just don’t take them as gospel.

He nodded and patted his horse’s neck in an affectionate way.

Machine recommend changing “in an affectionate way” to “affectionately” – true, normally this would get rid of extra words and help clarity, but for verbal nuances, this changes the sentence to something a little creepy.

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words April 29, 2016

House Burning

Image acquired from the Internet Hive Mind, in particular “We Know Memes”

Ever heard of a Copula Spider? … yeah, neither had I under I read Melissa Gilbert’s April 29, 2016 post on Magical Words. A copula is a linking verb – with the worse offender being “to be” … or in editing the dreaded “was”.

Read about them in the blog (link below) and then burn them from your writing!

Side note, Melissa Gilbert’s publishes under the name Melissa McArthur.

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words April 12, 2016

Cat reading over shoulder

Image acquired from the Internet Hive mind, via

Today’s visit to MagicalWords reveals another treasure from R.S. Belcher related what happens to your work after the initial writing stage: The League of Extraordinary Beta Readers.

While many people concentrate on professional wordsmiths, like editors and agents, getting your work read by READERS is important too. Mr. Belcher nicely sums up some of the things to look for in a beta reader. Editors find technical goofs, but a beta reader can give feedback like “I just don’t like this guy; don’t know why”. When three beta readers give the same feedback on, for instance, the secondary love interest hero, things may need to be fixed.

Another good post related to Beta Readers in MagicalWords:
AJ Hartley’sWriting fantasy: Slotted Spoons and the ABCs of Beta readers” (July 9, 2010)