From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction

by Robert Olen Butler

Other authorsJanet Burroway (Editor)
Paperback, 2006




Grove Press (2006), Edition: Reprint, 288 pages


The Pulitzer Prize-winning author "shares his insights into-and passion for-the creation and experience of fiction with total openness" (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Robert Olen Butler, author of Perfume River, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, and A Small Hotel, teaches graduate fiction at Florida State University-his version of literary boot camp. In From Where You Dream, Butler reimagines the process of writing as emotional rather than intellectual and tells writers how to achieve the dream space necessary for composing honest, inspired fiction. Proposing that fiction is the exploration of the human condition with yearning as its compass, Butler reinterprets the traditional tools of the craft using the dynamics of desire. Offering a direct view into the mind and craft of a literary master, From Where You Dream is an invaluable tool for the novice and experienced writer alike. "Incisive and provocative, Butler's tutorials are a must for anyone even thinking about writing fiction, and readers, too, will benefit from his passionate exhortations."--Booklist… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member michelleknudsen
I had very mixed feelings about this book. Parts were very helpful, e.g., Butler’s explanation of the dreamspace, his assertion that writers are sensualists, his insistence about the need to get out of one’s head. What he said about the unconscious being “scary as hell” and that of course
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it’s going to be hard to go there, and a constant struggle to go there despite the fear and the resistance—all of that was very comforting, since it’s nice to think there’s a good reason why writing is sometimes so incredibly hard. The lecture on film technique and fiction technique was also very helpful. On the other hand, I found his genre bias extremely off-putting and he makes some comments about children as characters toward the end that were completely ridiculous and misguided. The book is a valuable read for the good parts, but I think much of Butler’s advice should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.
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LibraryThing member vikk
Butler comes from a very intuitive place when it comes to writing, so be warned. Enjoyed reading this one very much. My book is haloed in red flags and stickies. The pages are littered with my scratches. I plan to reread his process section more slowly a second time around.
LibraryThing member rayette
i liked the suggestion he gave for planning out plots--letting characters "wander in your mind" for a while before starting to write. Otherwise, eh.
LibraryThing member JennGauthier
Despite there being one or two useful tips in the book for beginning writers (which is why I gave this book two stars instead of one) I have never been able to get over Butler's pretentious attitude. In fact, I'm amazed this book isn't much larger, considering it has to hold his overblown ego.
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There is much of the standard writing advice here, as well as some advice that I consider downright bad. Along with this, the reader is constantly bombarded by a subtext, which goes something like, "Thank god you found my book; now you can get rid of the trash you've written up until now and write brilliant prose the way I tell you to do it." Butler is most decidedly not of the opinion that there are as many different methods of writing as there are people. It's his way or you might as well not bother, and having read some of his writing, I'm glad the world in general doesn't agree. I was actually invited at one point to attend a writing workshop featuring Butler a couple years back, but I didn't think I could stand to listen to him for a week and declined.
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LibraryThing member donp
Highly recommended by a lot of writers I read.
LibraryThing member debnance
Forget everything you think you know about writing. Throw all the information you’ve obtained in school about how to write. All of that is useless. Writing doesn’t come from your logical, thoughtful brain. It’s really out of your control and it’s only when you let go of that control that
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you can write.And, thus, my difficulty.
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LibraryThing member malrubius
This is an excellent book. It gives a different perspective on the writing process and avoids most of the usual pedestrian (but important) stuff about character, plot, setting, etc that is available in many, many other books. I enjoyed it.
LibraryThing member detailmuse
"From Where You Dream" is an edited transcript of Butler's creative-writing and manuscript-critique lectures at Florida State University. He stresses creativity as a product of sense/emotion, not intellect, and shows how it’s accomplished.

Even if you pursue nothing else by Butler, make it a point
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to stand in the aisle at a library or bookstore and read Chapter 4 (“Cinema of the Mind”) for his comparison of fiction and film techniques. Outstanding.
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LibraryThing member Paul-the-well-read
The ideas and pointers included in this volume are excellent and worth the read. However, the format makes it a little disconcerting to follow and interpret because it is largely a set of transcripts from lectures. I would have found the book more useful had it been edited to be a real "writer's
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