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Short and Sweet Writing Advice – Writing to the Point by Algis Budrys Review

Writing to the Point by Algis Budrys - ReviewSometimes you read a book at exactly the right time to change your world. Algis Budrys’ “Writing to the Point: A Complete Guide to Selling Fiction” was one of those books for me.

Writing to the Point is a short (152 airy pages) yet deep (spanning everything from “Chapter 1: The Basic Basics” to dealing with agents and who to format a manuscript) writing advice book. It took me slightly less than an hour-and-a-half to read, and I haven’t come away from a writing how-to book this turbo-charged in a long, long time.


Writing to the Point is part of the Million Dollar Writing series from WordFire Press (which just happens to be run by Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, two writers and SFF industry pros), which I’m a fan of, and like the other books in the series it’s focused on giving a rapid, easy to read, content-packed overview of a particular part of writing.

But unlike the other books in the series, Budrys’ book gives an overview of an entire writing career.

The manuscript is not the story. Remember that.
– Algis Budrys

Writing to the Point starts out with defining a basic story structure. In the first chapter Budrys gives you the theory of a 7 point story divided into three blocks. Thus he manages to cram everything from validation to try-fail cycles into a single theoretical overview of how to plot an effective Science Fiction story. Then he shows you the theory in practice.

That’s what the second chapter is: Budrys transforming the structure into a silly little story about a girl going to a violin rehearsal.

And it is a silly story. It’s trite, filled with two-dimensional archetypes, starring a trope Mary-Sue character, a single-minded bully, a good cop, everything you’d find in an abysmal novel.

Except that Budrys makes it work. The story, once you finish it, tugs on the heart strings. And he tells you exactly why it does so, and since he builds up the story in parts, you get to see the pitfalls, the potential fatal errors, and the consequences of omissions.

And most importantly, you understand why the structure works. You understand it well enough to apply it to your own writing. I did.

You may not ever write a bestseller; most people don’t. But if you write enough, you will still make a comfortable living.
– Algis Budrys

Whether that is because I read Writing to the Point at the right time in my career, or whether the book is as good as I think, I’ll leave up to you. But I know that there is something worth studying in Writing to the Point.

Oh, and you’ll have seven more chapters to read, ranging from how to format a manuscript and land an agent, to how to deal with creative loneliness, keep your career alive, and yourself motivated.

That’s the second reason why you should read Writing to the Point: it contains a mass of golden nuggets of writerly wisdom, things that will make you want to start writing RIGHT NOW. And that makes, in my opinion, Writing to the Point worth every penny.

If you write, you are a writer – hopefully, a professional writer – and if you do not, you are not … no matter what you say.
– Algis Budrys

Key points

  • Readers of genre fiction expect story, and that kind of story demands certain set elements.
  • Some fiction does not need a story, merely a series of events.
  • It is possible to make a living as a writer if you’re determined.
  • Anyone with sufficient determination can become a professional writer.

You can write. You can. Almost any damned fool can, and many of them do. If I can do it, believe me, you can, too.
-Algis Budrys

Who’s it for?

  • Beginning-to-neo pro writers.
  • Writers in need of a pep-talk to get motivated.


Dreams of Futures Past Book Cover


  • Jacqueline Stigman

    Hello Filip! I am a writer and want to thank you for informing me about Algis Budrys book. I got it, read it and like you found it not only extremely helpful but also inspiring. Well timed too. I just got rid of most of the books I bought on the topic of how to write etc. i especially love how succinct his book is. Thanks again, Filip!

    • Filip Wiltgren

      Glad I could be of help! Also, if you liked this one, try Dean Wesley Smith’s “Heinlein’s Rules”. More of a business book than a how to, but equally speedy and very inspirational, at least to me.

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