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Recommended Books
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    The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
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    Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
    Plume
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    Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews
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    The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to): Guide to the Legal and Business Practices of Writing for the Entertainment Industry
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    Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic's Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers
    by Ambrose Bierce, Jan Freeman
  • The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
    The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
    Modern Library
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    The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
    by Christopher Vogler
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    The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
    by Janet Sternberg
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    The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook For The Working Writer, Third Edition
    by Brad Bunnin, Peter Beren
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    A Writer's Reality
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    A Writer's Time: Making the Time to Write
    by Kenneth Atchity
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    Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past
    by William Zinsser
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Paperback)
    Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Paperback)
    by Natalie Goldberg (Author)
  • Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
    Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
    by L. Rust Hills
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    Writing for Your Life
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    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
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  • The Writing Life
    The Writing Life
    by Annie Dillard
  • The Writing of Fiction
    The Writing of Fiction
    by Edith Wharton
  • Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
    Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
    by Lawrence Block
  • Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
    Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
    by Bonnie Friedman
  • You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
    You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
    by Regina Weinreich, Jack Kerouac
  • Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    by Ray Bradbury
  • Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives
    Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives
    by Lawrence Grobel

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Wednesday
Nov222017

Try to Finish with an Action

Try, if possible, to finish in the concrete, with an action, a movement, to carry the reader forward. Never forget that a story begins long before you start it and ends long after you end it. Allow your reader to walk out from your last line and into her own imagination. Find some last-line grace. This is the true gift of writing. It is not yours any more. It belongs in the elsewhere. It is the place you have created. Your last line is the first line for everybody else.

COLUM McCANN

Tuesday
Nov212017

The Writer’s Only Responsibility Is to His Art

The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.

WILLIAM FAULKNER

Monday
Nov202017

Be Willing to Look Stupid

You have to be willing to look stupid, to stumble down unproductive paths, and to endure bad afternoons when all your ideas are flat and sterile and derivative. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, you’ll bounce back from these lulls and be ready for the music’s next visit.

GEORGE MEYER

Sunday
Nov192017

Think of What You Skip Reading a Novel

Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue.

ELMORE LEONARD

Saturday
Nov182017

Doubts Creep In

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

VIRGINIA WOOLF

Friday
Nov172017

Try to Have as Few Conceptual Notions as Possible

My general approach to writing fiction is that you try to have as few conceptual notions as possible and you just respond to the energy that the story is making rather than having a big over plan. I think if you have a big over plan, the danger is that you might just take your plan and then you bore everybody. I always joke that it’s like going on a date with index cards. You know, at 7:30 p.m. I should ask about her mother. You keep all the control to yourself but you are kind of insulting to the other person.

GEORGE SAUNDERS

Thursday
Nov162017

Find What Gave You Emotion

Find what gave you emotion; what the action was that gave you excitement. Then write it down making it clear so that the reader can see it too. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Wednesday
Nov152017

We Must Not Be Defeated

There is, I hope, a thesis in my work: we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. That sounds goody-two-shoes, I know, but I believe that a diamond is the result of extreme pressure and time. Less time is crystal. Less than that is coal. Less than that is fossilized leaves. Less than that it’s just plain dirt. In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats—maybe it’s imperative that we encounter the defeats—but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be. 

MAYA ANGELOU

Tuesday
Nov142017

Critique Groups Can Be Less Than Ideal

Critique groups can be less than ideal. You get a bunch of writers together to explicitly pick apart one another’s work, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to end up with something better, but you damn sure might end up with something routinely not you. And the opposite can be true, too — they might all love what you wrote, despite the fact that the thing you wrote needs serious work. This is complicated further by social biases: friends don’t want to hurt friends, so maybe they withhold honesty or literally don’t see the problem. Friends also might unconsciously want to hurt friends because, well, we’re a bundle of terrible complexities and maybe there’s some jealousy involved or some kind of unperceived resentment, oh no. Plus, a critique group sometimes feels obligated to find problems just to make use of themselves, which means they’re inventing problems rather than highlighting existing problems, and you might feel obligated to make changes because you don’t want to be rude — but maybe you have your own resentments and disregard good edits because of them, and, and, and….

CHUCK WENDIG

Monday
Nov132017

Let the Writer Open His Mouth & Yap It Like Shakespeare

Never did tell you my theory of writing. If it isn’t spontaneous, right unto the very sound of the mind, it can only be crafty and revised, by which the paradox arises, we get what a man has hidden, i.e., his craft, instead of what we need, what a man has shown, i.e. blown (like jazz musician or rose)-

The requirements for prose & verse are the same, i.e. blow-What a man most wishes to hide, revise, and un-say, is precisely what Literature is waiting and bleeding for-Every doctor knows, every Prophet knows the convulsion of truth.-Let the writer open his mouth & yap it like Shakespeare and get said what is only irrecoverably said once in time the way it comes, for time is of the essence-

JACK KEROUAC, in a letter to Malcolm Cowley (1955)

Sunday
Nov122017

A Voice Emerges from an Informed Intelligence

My least favorite received idea about writing is that one must find one’s voice, as if it’s there inside you, fully formed and ready to turn on like a player piano. A voice is what emerges from an informed intelligence as it reaches toward accurate perception.

SARAH MANGUSO

Saturday
Nov112017

Get Into a Scene Late, Get Out Early

Get into a scene late, get out early. The dramatist’s task is not to create confrontation or chaos but, rather, to create order. Start with the disordering event, and let the beat be about the attempt to restore order.

DAVID MAMET

Friday
Nov102017

Writing Is a Craft

Writing is a craft in the way that carpentry is a craft: There’s art to it, sure, and a certain inspiration required of it, definitely, but for the most part you’re just sawing and sanding and getting dust in your eyes.

MEGAN GARBER 

Thursday
Nov092017

Work on Something Dangerous

You’ve got to work on something dangerous. You have to work on something that makes you uncertain. Something that makes you doubt yourself. You shouldn’t feel safe. You should feel, “I don’t know if I can write this.” That’s what I mean by dangerous, and I think that’s a good thing to do. Sacrifice something safe.

STEPHEN SONDHEIM

Wednesday
Nov082017

Stories Are Compasses and Architecture

Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.

REBECCA SOLNIT

Tuesday
Nov072017

Respect Your First Draft!

Respect your first draft! It’s your child, just a little uncoordinated and unkempt. Don’t throw that baby out with the bathwater. The fact that you wrote it makes it significant. You must have been trying to say something, even though the manuscript may look like subliterate Sanskrit to you now.

CAROLYN SEE

Monday
Nov062017

Don't Wrestle with the Muse

I don’t go up against my writing and come out bloody-knuckled. I don’t wrestle with the muse. I don’t argue. I try to get away from self-hatred, and competition, all those things that mark and mar so many writers’ careers and lives. I try to remain stubborn in my gladness.

ELIZABETH GILBERT

Sunday
Nov052017

Find the Universal in the Local

As a writer one doesn’t belong anywhere. Fiction writers, I think, are even more outside the pale, necessarily on the edge of society. Because society and people are our meat, one really doesn’t belong in the midst of society. The great challenge in writing is always to find the universal in the local, the parochial. And to do that, one needs distance.

WILLIAM TREVOR

Saturday
Nov042017

You Expect Far Too Much of a First Sentence

You expect far too much of a first sentence. Think of it as analogous to a good country breakfast: what we want is something simple, but nourishing to the imagination. Hold the philosophy, hold the adjectives, just give us a plain subject and verb and perhaps a wholesome, nonfattening adverb or two.

LARRY McMURTRY

Friday
Nov032017

Don't Panic

Don't panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends' embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there's prayer. St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.

SARAH WATERS