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Recommended Books
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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 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
    by Brad Bunnin, Peter Beren
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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 Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Paperback)
    by Natalie Goldberg (Author)
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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
    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
    by Marie Arana
  • 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
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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
    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

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Sunday
May142017

Inside-Out Characters

I don’t like to throw characters into a plot as though it were a raging torrent where they are swept along. What interests me are the complications and nuances of character. Few of my characters are described externally; we see them from the inside out.

MICHAEL ONDAATJE

Saturday
May132017

The Arrangement of Words Matters

Grammar is a piano I play by ear, since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules were mentioned. All I know of grammar is its infinite power. To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object being photographed. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences. The arrangement of words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind. The picture dictates the arrangement. The picture dictates whether this will be a sentence with or without clauses, a sentence that ends hard or a dying-fall sentence, long or short, active or passive. The picture tells you how to arrange words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what’s going on in the picture. Nota bene.*

It tells you.

You don’t tell it.

JOAN DIDION

Friday
May122017

Be Open to the Possibilities of the Story

When I start a story, I don’t know what the ending will be in advance. I very much believe in working organically—that is, I don’t know what the story will be or what’s going to happen. This is the beauty of the art of fiction, as opposed to laying out an essay or writing a thriller. You remain open to the possibilities throughout the entire story. When they’re lucky, the artist finds one line, one moment that brings it all together. It’s hard to say how certain stories just punch us in the heart and the brain at the same time at the end. I suppose that’s what we’re all looking for.

T.C. BOYLE

Thursday
May112017

Be In Love with Yr Life

Be in love with yr life

Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

Blow as deep as you want to blow

Write what you want bottomless from the bottom of the mind

Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

Write in recollection and amazement for yourself

JACK KEROUAC

Wednesday
May102017

Leave Things Lumpy

Leave things lumpy. People want to know how the protagonist’s father’s dress socks looked against his pale white shins. People want to know the titles of the strange and eclectic books lining the walls of his study. People want to know the sounds he made while snoring, how he looked while concentrating, the way his glasses pinched the bridge of his nose, leaving what appeared to be uncomfortable-looking ovals of purple and red discolored skin when he took those glasses off at the end of a long day. Even if those lumps make the mixture less smooth, less pretty, even if you don’t quite know what to do with them, even if they don’t figure into your chemistry—they don’t have a place in the reaction equations—leave them there. Leave the impurities in there.

CHARLES YU

Tuesday
May092017

Put It in a Drawer

When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second — put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year or more is ideal — but even three months will do. Step away from the vehicle. The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH

Monday
May082017

Those Who Work Much Do Not Work Hard

The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. There will be a wide margin for relaxation to his day. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time, and does not exaggerate the value of the husk. Why should the hen set all day? She can lay but one egg, and besides she will not have picked up materials for a new one. Those who work much do not work hard.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU

Sunday
May072017

Whatever Works

Rules such as “Write what you know,” and “Show, don’t tell,” while doubtlessly grounded in good sense, can be ignored with impunity by any novelist nimble enough to get away with it. There is, in fact, only one rule in writing fiction: Whatever works, works.

TOM ROBBINS

Saturday
May062017

Stop Thinking

It’s funny, I teach writing, and before I taught I never would guessed the thing I say most often is: “Please stop thinking.” But people really write better without thinking, by which I mean without self-consciousness. I’m not calculating about what I write, which means I have very little control over it. It’s not that I decide what to write and carry it out. It’s more that I grope my way towards something—not even knowing what it is until I’ve arrived. I’ve gotten better over the years at accepting this. Of course, the intellect wants to kick in—and, in the later drafts, it should. But in the early stages of a book, I deal with potential self-consciousness by literally hushing the critical voices in my head. The voices that tell you: “Oh, those aren’t the words you want,” or “you shouldn't be working on this part now,” or “why not use the present tense?”—on and on. Anyone who’s ever written anything is familiar with that chorus.

KATHRYN HARRISON

Friday
May052017

A Story Is a Series of Engines

A story is a series of engines whose job is to move the plot forward, not a display case for statically showing off the brilliance of a writer’s views on human nature.

EMILY BARTON

Thursday
May042017

The Use of Commas Cannot Be Learned by Rule

The use of commas cannot be learned by rule. Not only does conventional practice vary from period to period, but good writers of the same period differ among themselves. . . . The correct use of the comma—if there is such a thing as “correct” use—can only be acquired by common sense, observation and taste.

ERNEST GOWERS

Wednesday
May032017

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
May022017

Writing Is A Muscle

Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about.

COLIN NISSAN

Monday
May012017

Sit and Quiet Yourself

Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow. You’ll be amazed at what will come out on paper. I’m still learning what it is about the past that I want to write. I don’t worry about it. It will emerge. It will insist on being told.”

FRANK McCOURT

Sunday
Apr302017

Novelists Are Like Fur Trappers

Novelists are like fur trappers. They disappear into the north woods for months or years at a time, sometimes never to reemerge, giving in to despair out there, or going native (taking a real job, in other words), or catching their legs in their own traps and bleeding out, silently, into the snow. The lucky ones return, laden with pelts.

JEFFREY EUGENIDES

Saturday
Apr292017

Stay Away from Irony or Satire

Stay away from irony or satire. There’s very little money in it. You’re likely to wind up with reviews—like some of mine—that say, “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.” There’s no such question in Dickens. Most readers would prefer to know exactly where they stand, where the author stands, and how to respond. Ergo, no irony permitted.

BRUCE JAY FRIEDMAN

Friday
Apr282017

Use Adverbs Sparingly

All adverbs, save temporal ones—quickly, suddenly, immediately, etc.—are unnecessary, and the mark of a distracted writer, which is to say a weak writer. They admit that the necessary work was not done earlier; they exist then as a patch job, a bang-on modifier, telling the reader how to feel rather than exploring, in a partnership of equity with the writer, the territories of the emotion and its circumstances. They’re quite often a very bad thing.

RICK BASS

Thursday
Apr272017

The Unread Story Is Not a Story

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.

URSULA K. LE GUIN

Wednesday
Apr262017

Writing Is an Act of Courage

I strongly believe that writing is an act of courage. It’s almost an act of physical courage. You get up and you have this great idea. Maybe you were hanging out with your friends—you guys were having beers and you were talking about something. You had this idea and they said, “Wow, that’s brilliant! Someone should go write it.” And you sit down to write it and almost always what was brilliant before, when you were sitting around talking, is somehow not so brilliant when you go to write. It’s as though you have a certain music in your head, and trying to get that music out on a page is absolute hell. And so you fail. If you’re doing it correctly, what happens is, the translation of what you hear in your head, what your idea is in your head, will almost always come out really badly on the page when you first write, okay? But what you have to do is you have to give yourself a day, go back, revise over and over and over again until you get something that is at least maybe 70 percent of what you wanted to do. You try to go from really bad to okay to acceptable. Then you know you’ve done your job. I never really get to that perfect thing that was in my head, so I always consider the entire process about failure. I think that’s the main reason why more people don’t write. It’s very depressing in that way.     

TA-NEHISI COATES

Tuesday
Apr252017

It’s Never as Bad as You Thought

There exists this moment before I edit where I feel completely overwhelmed. This is, quite literally, part of my process. I get this sense of literary vertigo, like I’m staring over the cliff’s edge into the crashing gears of some giant malevolent machine that I cannot comprehend and that I am sure will crush me into my constituent parts. And in this moment I want to back away and say, “Fuck it, I’m not doing this, I’m done, game over, my work sucks, I’m not a writer, I’m just some asshole, I can’t hack it, I can’t-” And then I leap over the cliff’s edge and let the gears take me. And that’s when I find out it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It’s never as bad as you thought.

CHUCK WENDIG