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Recommended Books
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    by Ambrose Bierce, Jan Freeman
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    Modern Library
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    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
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  • The Writing of Fiction
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    by Edith Wharton
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    by Lawrence Block
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    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
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    Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    by Ray Bradbury

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Saturday
May032014

Whom Are You Writing For?

It comes back to the question, whom are you writing for? Who are the readers you want? Who are the people you want to engage with the things that matter most to you? And for me, it's people who don't need it all spelled out because they know it, they understand it. That's why there's so much I can't read because I get so exasperated. Someone starts describing the character boarding the plane and pulling the seat back. And I just want to say, Babe, I have been downtown. I have been up in a plane. Give me some credit.

AMY HEMPEL

Friday
May022014

Writing is Like Walking Through A Desert

I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.

STEPHEN KING

Thursday
May012014

Billy Wilder's Rules for Screenwriters

 

1. The audience is fickle.


2. Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go.


3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.


4. Know where you’re going.


5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.


6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.


7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.


8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.


9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.


10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then—that’s it. Don’t hang around.

Wednesday
Apr302014

Don't Think

Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things.

RAY BRADBURY

Tuesday
Apr292014

Nothing Can Break the Mood Like Bad Dialogue

Nothing can break the mood of a piece of writing like bad dialogue. My students are miserable when they are reading an otherwise terrific story to the class and then hit a patch of dialogue that is so purple and expositional that it reads like something from a childhood play by the Gabor sisters. ... I can see the surprise on my students' faces, because the dialogue looked okay on paper, yet now it sounds as if it were poorly translated from their native Hindi.

ANNE LAMOTT

Monday
Apr282014

Think of Your Main Characters as Dinner Guests

Think of your main characters as dinner guests. Would your friends want to spend ten hours with the characters you’ve created? Your characters can be loveable, or they can be evil, but they’d better be compelling.

PO BRONSON

Sunday
Apr272014

Write As If You Were Dying

Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?

ANNIE DILLARD

Saturday
Apr262014

Be Patient

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

HILARY MANTEL

Friday
Apr252014

You Have To Let A Story Go

There’s always a point where you have to let a story go. Art isn’t finished, as many people before me have pointed out, only abandoned. And eventually you abandon your new child and hope that you’ll get it right next time, or the time after that, and you never do.

NEIL GAIMAN

Thursday
Apr242014

Writing Is A Kind of Double Living

Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.

CATHERINE DRINKER BOWEN

Wednesday
Apr232014

Writing is a Way to Talk About Yourself

Writing became a way for me to talk about myself—or a character—in a really personal, surprising manner without any embarrassment. I was brought up to be an incredibly nice person, but not everything I wanted to say was nice.

LOUISE ERDRICH

Tuesday
Apr222014

So Many Books, So Little Time

So many books, so little time. When I was young and thought I had plenty of time, I often reread old favorites from start to finish. But these days I reread only bits and pieces, looking for a vaguely remembered tone or mood, a voice, a way of structuring a scene, or in the case of nonfiction, factual details, that I can borrow or learn from for my own work.

RUSSELL BANKS

Monday
Apr212014

Start Writing Something

You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN

Sunday
Apr202014

Your Best Tools Are Short, Plain, Anglo-Saxon Verbs

Your best tools are short, plain, Anglo-Saxon verbs. I mean active verbs, not passive verbs. If you could write an article using only active verbs, your article would automatically have clarity and warmth and vigor.

WILLIAM ZINSSER

Saturday
Apr192014

Create Vulnerable Characters

It’s always a part of my purpose as a storyteller to first create characters that the reader will be anxious for. You can’t be anxious for a character if you don’t care about the character, if you don’t in some way like, respect, or even love the character, or at least have affection for the character. And then, once I’ve established those characters, in whom the reader I hope has some emotional investment, then it’s perversely my job to make as many terrible things happen to those people we like as I can imagine.

JOHN IRVING

Friday
Apr182014

Tell It Straight

I learned a lot from James Joyce and Erskine Caldwell and of course from Hemingway … [but the] tricks you need to transform something which appears fantastic, unbelievable, into something plausible, credible, those I learned from journalism. The key is to tell it straight. It is done by reporters and by country folk.

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

Thursday
Apr172014

The Fumblerules of Grammar

Don't use no double negatives.

Eschew obfuscation.

Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.

The passive voice should never be employed.

You should not use a big word when a diminutive would suffice.

It is bad to carelessly split infinitives.

About those sentence fragments.

Avoid clichés like the plague.

WILLIAM SAFIRE

Wednesday
Apr162014

Dialogue Is Easier Than Plot

It is much easier to write great dialogue (which is a talent and not really very much of an exertion) than to write great plots. So we playwrights do the next best thing to writing great plots: we write bad plots. And then we fill up the empty spaces with verbiage.

DAVID MAMET

Tuesday
Apr152014

Read Like Mad

Read like mad. But try to do it analytically – which can be hard, because the better and more compelling a novel is, the less conscious you will be of its devices. It's worth trying to figure those devices out, however: they might come in useful in your own work.

SARAH WATERS

Monday
Apr142014

Keep A Diary

Keep a diary, but don't just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it up as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and end—as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel. It's great practice. Do this while figuring out what you want to write a book about. The book may even emerge from within this running diary.

JOHN BERENDT

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