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Recommended Books
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    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 Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
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    The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
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    The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook For The Working Writer, Third Edition
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    A Writer's Time: Making the Time to Write
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    Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past
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    Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
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    Writing for Your Life
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    The Writing Life
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    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
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  • The Writing of Fiction
    The Writing of Fiction
    by Edith Wharton
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    Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
    by Lawrence Block
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    Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
    by Bonnie Friedman
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    You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
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    Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    by Ray Bradbury

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Monday
Feb152010

Write Because You Feel Like Writing

All this advice from senior writers to establish a discipline—always to get down a thousand words a day whatever one’s mood—I find an absurdly puritanical and impractical approach. Write, if you must, because you feel like writing, never because you ought to write.

JOHN FOWLES 

Sunday
Feb142010

Move to New York City

Move to New York City. Get married. Buy an incredibly expensive apartment. Have children, a dog, a second home in the country. Lease an imported luxury automobile. Come the first of the month, I promise, you will have no problem writing.

BRUCE FEIRSTEIN

Saturday
Feb132010

The Key to Literary Success

Literary success of any enduring kind is made by refusing to do what publishers want, by refusing to write what the public wants, by refusing to accept any popular standard, by refusing to write anything to order.

LAFCADIO HEARN

Friday
Feb122010

Don't Try to Make the Shallow Seem Deep

Deliberately puzzling or confusing a reader may keep him reading for a while, but at too great an expense. Even just an “aura” of mystery in a story is usually just a lot of baloney. Who are these people? What are they up to? Provoking such questions from a reader can be a writer’s way of deferring exposition until he feels the reader is ready for the explanation of it all. But more likely it’s just fogging things up. A lot of beginning writers’ fiction is like a lot of beginners’ poetry: deliberately unintelligible so as to make the shallow seem deep.

RUST HILLS

Thursday
Feb112010

The More An Audience Laughs, the More It Feels

The best playwrights—Tennesse Williams, for instance—will punctuate the most serious moment with an outrageous laugh. The audience delights in it. They need the relief. They need laughter. . . . The more an audience laughs, the more it feels. Shakespeare knew this—there’s comedy in his most serious plays.

JEROME LAWRENCE

Wednesday
Feb102010

You Can't Tell Or Show Everything

You can’t tell or show everything within the compass of a book. If you try to tell or show everything, your reader will die of boredom before the end of the first page. You must, therefore, ask yourself what is the core of the matter you wish to communicate to your reader? Having decided on the core of the matter, all that you tell him must relate to it and illustrate it more and more vividly.

MORRIS L. WEST

Tuesday
Feb092010

Success Is Hazardous to Your Health

I think what's most disturbing about success is that it's very hazardous to your health, as well as to your daily routine. Not only are there intrusions on your time, but there is a kind of corrosion of your own humility and sense of necessary workmanship. You get the idea that anything you do is in some way marvelous.

JOHN UPDIKE

Monday
Feb082010

Happy Are They Who Don't Doubt Themselves

Happy are they who don't doubt themselves and whose pens fly across the page. I myself hesitate, I falter, I become angry and fearful, my drive diminishes as my taste improves, and I brood more over an ill-suited word than I rejoice over a well-proportioned paragraph.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

Saturday
Feb062010

Most People Quit

Most people quit. If you don’t quit, if you rewrite, if you keep publishing in fancier places, you will understand that “What’s the secret?” is not the question, which is, “Are you having fun?”

ROBERT LIPSYTE

Saturday
Feb062010

You Have to Sit Down and Work

It’s a job. It’s not a hobby. You don’t write the way you build a model airplane. You have to sit down and work, to schedule your time and stick to it. Even if it’s just for an hour or so each day, you have to get a babysitter and make the time. If you’re going to make writing succeed you have to approach it as a job.

ROSELLEN BROWN

Friday
Feb052010

Just say, “he said, she said.”

Nouns, verbs, are the workhorses of language. Especially in dialogue, don’t say, “she said mincingly,” or “he said boisterously.” Just say, “he said, she said.”

JOHN P. MARQUAND

Thursday
Feb042010

Keep A Diary

After suggesting [that young writers] look into The Writer's Chapbook I recommend they keep a diary, at least a page a day, and faithfully, and also to get into the habit of letter writing to other writers. The advantages that come with doing this seem obvious—both are exercises which hone the communicative skills.

GEORGE PLIMPTON

Wednesday
Feb032010

Write Like You Talk

A writer friend advised, when I was starting out on my first book: “write like you talk.” I took that to mean that good writing must have a conversational quality, should not be arch or pretentious. And as you are aware when speaking to others when their attention lapses, so when writing you must think: How do I hold the reader’s attention?

KEN AULETTA

Tuesday
Feb022010

Understand the Meaning of Your Own Experiences

The writer’s fundamental attempt is to understand the meaning of his own experiences. If he can’t break through those issues that concern him deeply, he’s not going to be very good.

ROBERT PENN WARREN

Monday
Feb012010

Your Protagonist Cannot Be Perfect

The protagonist of a play cannot be a perfect person. If he were, he could not improve, and he must come out at the end of the play a more admirable human being than he went in.

MAXWELL ANDERSON

Sunday
Jan312010

The Real Metaphoric Formula

Metaphor is supposed to state the unknown in terms of the known. It is supposed to say X equals Y. Yet when we say “John is a lion,” we do not think of John with a mane, with four clawed paws, nor with a pompon tipped tail. We extract from “lion” the emotional equivalent we need and let the rest go. The real metaphoric formula is X does-and-does-not-equal Y.

JOHN CIARDI

Saturday
Jan302010

Remove the Manuscript from the Submission Process

When editors buy from a proposal—which is most of the time—they presume that the manuscript has yet to be written, which is true most of the time. I believe, therefore, that it is better not to disabuse them of this notion. Better, I believe, to remove the manuscript from the submission process altogether and to submit a proposal for your book even if it is already written. In addition to giving the editor less to turn down, you will probably want to rework the manuscript anyway based on the editorial feedback you have received from the proposal.

JOHN BOSWELL

Friday
Jan292010

It Does Get Easier

Do dialogue-let's say-between a hobo and a high-class hooker, then between an am­bulance chaser and a guy who sells scorecards at the ballpark-let's say-about the meaning of money. Between pints, get the arch of the dart down pat. Shoot foul shots day in and rim out. Pick a sentence at random from a randomly selected book, and another from another volume also chosen by chance; then write a paragraph which will be a reasonable bridge between them. And it does get easier to do what you have done, sing what you've so often sung; it gets so easy, sometimes, that what was once a challenge passes over into thoughtless routine. So the bar must be raised a few notches, one's handicap increased, the stakes trebled, tie both hands behind your back. Refuse the blindfold, refuse the final cigarette, refuse the proffered pizza. Do dialogue in dialect: a Welshman and a Scot arguing about an onion. Hardest of all: start over.

WILLIAM H. GASS

Thursday
Jan282010

A Writer Writes with His Instincts

The process of writing is something in which a writer's whole personality plays a part. A writer writes not only with his ideas but also with his instincts, with his intuition. The dark side of a personality also plays a very important role in the process of writing a book. The rational factor is something of which the writer is not totally aware. And so when a writer gives testimony about his books, he does it in a particularly subjective way. He gives a clear picture of only what he wanted to do, which rarely coincides with what he actually did. That is why a reader is sometimes in a better position to judge what a writer has done than the writer himself.

MARIO VARGAS LLOSA

Wednesday
Jan272010

Be Daring

Be daring, take on anything. Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind.

JOYCE CAROL OATES