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Recommended Books
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    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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    Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
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    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
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    Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
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    Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
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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
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QUOTE OF THE DAY

Sunday
Jul092017

Don't Number Scenes

Don’t number scenes. Scene numbers are only for shooting scripts. They are for breaking down scripts for location and budget purposes and to schedule the shoot. It’s wonderful if you’ve bought fancy software, but shut off the scene-numbering software.

TONY BILL

Saturday
Jul082017

Empty Days Are Important

I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged, damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.

MAY SARTON

Friday
Jul072017

Research Is Where the Story Comes From

For many writers, research is a big yawn. The past is a foreign country, and who cares how they do things differently there? Research is reading disintegrating papers in dusty libraries; sifting through shoe boxes in ancient attics; interviewing people who don’t know when to stop talking. But for biographers, research is thrilling. Reconstructing history is delicious. Research is where the story comes from; it’s the bits and pieces of the past we are trying to bring to life.

SUSAN CHEEVER

Thursday
Jul062017

History Is About Life

History is about life. It's awful when the life is squeezed out of it and there's no flavor left, no uncertainties, no horsing around. It always disturbed me how many biographers never gave their subjects a chance to eat. You can tell a lot about people by how they eat, what they eat, and what kind of table manners they have.

DAVID McCULLOUGH

Wednesday
Jul052017

Leave the Doubts to Others

The world will provide you with every imaginable obstacle, but the one most difficult to overcome will be the lack of faith in yourself. Leave it to others to have doubts about you.

CALLIE KHOURI

Tuesday
Jul042017

Forget Every Rule

Forget every rule Syd Field, Robert McKee or any other screenwriting guru ever taught you. Except one: Never be boring.

DAVID MAMET

Monday
Jul032017

Write a Good Sentence

Write a good sentence, then a good paragraph, and don’t be dreaming about writing the great American novel or what you’ll wear at the awards ceremony because that’s not what writing’s about or how you get there from here. The road is made entirely out of words.

REBECCA SOLNIT

Sunday
Jul022017

Publishers Want Controversial Books

Publishers want to take chances on books that will draw a clamor and some legitimate publicity. They want to publish controversial books. That their reasons are mercenary and yours may be lofty should not deter you.

HARLAN ELLISON

Saturday
Jul012017

Anyone Can Have A Prose Style

Anyone who puts pen to paper can have a prose style. In almost every case, that style will be quiet, sometimes so quiet as to be detectable only by you, the writer. In the quiet, you can listen to your sound in various manifestations; then you can start to shape it and develop it. That project can last as long as you keep writing, and it never gets old.

BEN YAGODA

Friday
Jun302017

The Writer Is the Most Vocal and Inventive Griper on Earth

Next to the defeated politician, the writer is the most vocal and inventive griper on earth. He sees hardship and unfairness wherever he looks. His agent doesn’t love him (enough). The blank sheet of paper is an enemy. The publisher is a cheapskate. The critic is a philistine. The public doesn’t understand him. His wife doesn’t understand him. The bartender doesn’t understand him.

PETER MAYLE

Thursday
Jun292017

Work Every Day

Work every day. Obviously I don’t mean every day. Hyperbole, it’s what we do for a living. So let me clarify and tell you what I really mean: Work every day.

STEPHEN HUNTER

Wednesday
Jun282017

If You’re Having Fun, It’s Probably Not Working

One of the things I’ve never experienced when writing is flow, that experience of being totally immersed in the process. The gradient changes, but it is always an uphill struggle: awkward first drafts; repeated editing; the depressingly regular deletion of entire stories. The view at the top is sometimes glorious, but the climb is always a long one. As I often say to students, “If you’re having fun, it’s probably not working.”

MARK HADDON

Tuesday
Jun272017

John Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts for Popular Fiction

1. DO — WRITE A PAGE EVERY DAY

That’s about 200 words, or 1,000 words a week. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough.

Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.

2. DON’T — WRITE THE FIRST SCENE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE LAST

This necessitates the use of a dreaded device commonly called an outline. Virtually all writers hate that word. I have yet to meet one
who admits to using an outline.

Plotting takes careful planning. Writers waste years pursuing stories that eventually don’t work.

3. DO — WRITE YOUR ONE PAGE EACH DAY AT THE SAME PLACE AND TIME

Early morning, lunch break, on the train, late at night — it doesn’t matter. Find the extra hour, go to the same place, shut the door.

No exceptions, no excuses.

4. DON’T — WRITE A PROLOGUE

Prologues are usually gimmicks to hook the reader. Avoid them. Plan your story (see No. 2) and start with Chapter 1.

5. DO — USE QUOTATION MARKS WITH DIALOGUE

Please do this. It’s rather basic.

6. DON’T — KEEP A THESAURUS WITHIN REACHING DISTANCE

I know, I know, there’s one at your fingertips.

There are three types of words: (1) words we know; (2) words we should know; (3) words nobody knows. Forget those in the third category
and use restraint with those in the second.

A common mistake by fledgling authors is using jaw-breaking vocabulary. It’s frustrating and phony.

7. DO — READ EACH SENTENCE AT LEAST THREE TIMES IN SEARCH OF WORDS TO CUT

Most writers use too many words, and why not? We have unlimited space and few constraints.

8. DON’T — INTRODUCE 20 CHARACTERS IN THE FIRST CHAPTER

Another rookie mistake. Your readers are eager to get started. Don’t bombard them with a barrage of names from four generations of the same family. Five names are enough to get started. 

Monday
Jun262017

Arrive at an Appropriate Form

I hardly do any preplanning, just fretting and wheel spinning. On quite a few occasions I’ve thought. I’ve got to sort this out before I begin writing, but the only way to arrive at the right way to do it is to crack on and see what works. The process of book writing for me is entirely one of trial and error. Likewise questions of structure. I get the idea for the structure of a book at some point, but rarely at the beginning. I accumulate a quantity of material, and at a certain point some idea of a structure will emerge that’s both the product of and appropriate to the subject. I’ve written books about loads of different subjects, but that wouldn’t count for shit if I just gave each subject the same treatment. In each book I’ve had to arrive at a form that was appropriate to that subject.

GEOFF DYER

Sunday
Jun252017

Let Your Reader Breathe

It can be daunting, visually, from the very beginning, for a reader to realize he or she must focus and engage non-stop on a paragraph that goes on nearly the length of the page. It’s what’s in the paragraph that matters, of course, but still, remember to let your reader breathe. Be interesting, and take care of your reader.

RICK BASS

Saturday
Jun242017

Writing Well Is Not a Reward for Being Virtuous

I have...learned that you can be patient and diligent and sometimes it just doesn't strike sparks. After a while you begin to understand that writing well is not a promised reward for being virtuous. No, every time you do it you're stepping off into darkness and hoping for some light. You can be faithful, work hard, not waste your talents in drink, and still not have it happen.

TOBIAS WOLFF

Friday
Jun232017

Acquire a Cat

If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, I explained, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp. The light from a lamp, I explained, gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.

MURIEL SPARK

Thursday
Jun222017

Make the Reader a Co-Author

Write out of the reader’s imagination as well as your own. Supply the significant details and let the reader’s imagination do the rest. Make the reader a co-author of the story.

PATRICK F. MCMANUS

Wednesday
Jun212017

Force Yourself to Write Non-Stop

[If you have writer's block] force yourself to write non-stop for twenty or thirty minutes: no deletions, no erasures, no pauses. If that doesn't work, take a break. Take a walk. Pack up your writing supplies and go someplace new. Sit in a coffee shop, find a cozy spot in a library, go to a park. If you're truly desperate, go away for a few days. Take a train to a distant city and write onboard (on Amtrak, you can actually plug in your computer. But coffee is essential: without it, the train will rock you to sleep.) It often helps to do something entirely nonverbal, like making a collage or playing music. And it always helps to understand that writer's block is a widespread malady. To strengthen your feeling of solidarity with the scribbling classes, watch these movies: The ShiningMiseryBarton FinkDeconstructing Harry, all of which explore the consequences of writer's block.

NANCY HATHAWAY

Tuesday
Jun202017

David Hare’s 10 Rules for Writers

1. Write only when you have something to say.

2. Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome.

3. Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.

4. If nobody will put your play on, put it on yourself.

5. Jokes are like hands and feet for a painter. They may not be what you want to end up doing but you have to master them in the meanwhile.

6. Theatre primarily belongs to the young.

7. No one has ever achieved consistency as a screenwriter.

8. Never go to a TV personality festival masquerading as a literary festival.

9. Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to.

10. The two most depressing words in the English language are "literary fiction."